*Warning: Contains spoilers for book one*
At the end of my review for Between Two Thorns I said that most of the characters were harbouring secrets, and boy, was I proved right in Emma Newman’s sequel, Any Other Name.
Kicking off immediately after book one, Cathy Rhoeas-Papaver is awaiting her wedding day to William Reticulata-Iris with a sense of dread, hating the old-fashioned and compressing society of the Nether. She longs to return to Mundanus and is prepared to go to any lengths to escape her family’s clutches and avoid the wedding of the year. However, after the events of book one and the downfall of the Rosa family, the wedding date is brought forward and Cathy detained by her family via highly immoral means to ensure the wedding goes ahead as planned.
Will is not as hard-hearted in this as he may appear, as he thinks by holding the wedding early he can protect Cathy from her family’s iron control, despite secretly wishing he was marrying Amelia Alba-Rosa instead. He is as much forced into the marriage as Cathy, with his family seeking a secure alliance to groom Will as the next Duke of Londinium (London in the Nether world). After the fall of the Rosas, his wish to marry Amelia is no longer possible, but having saved her and her brother, Cornelius, he is confident that he can one day restore them to the societal position they deserve.
After Cathy becomes an Iris and is under Will’s protection there is an increasing pressure upon her to become a perfect society wife and to conceive their first child. Needless to say she is scandalised at the prospect, and refuses to consummate their marriage just because it is supposedly her ‘duty’ as a wife. Angered by this, Will points out that if he was a different sort of man she wouldn’t have a choice in the matter, before seeking solace in the arms of Amelia. Cathy is thrown into the societal world and forced to put on a good show of running the household whilst secretly planning her escape, working together with Max the arbiter to achieve her goal.
I did get a little confused with Max’s aims in this novel, as I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what he was trying to achieve besides uncovering a fresh scandal from the Nether. With the help of his gargoyle (resulting in some amusing conflicts of interest), Max follows the orders of Ekland in discovering a wave of suspicious activity in Mundanus resulting from those in the Nether called The Agency. He is particularly interested in the missing Rosas and is convinced that their family still maintains some level of power despite their social relegation.
Elsewhere we have our third protagonist, Sam, the human in Mundanus who was introduced to the world of the Nether in book one. Still struggling with the conflict between him and his wife, the beginning of the book sees him return to the world of Exilium in order to rescue five humans from the clutches of Lord Poppy. Poppy tricks him into becoming his slave and to deliver a message to Cathy, who is still his favourite descendant, revelling in his mischievous control over their lives. However, despite his naivety about the Nether and Exilium, there is still something unique about Sam that results from his wedding ring and his protection from the mysterious Lord Iron – a figure no-one seems to know anything about.
Even more exciting than book one, with the different worlds now firmly established there was much more scope to hand the story over to the characters rather than the setting. We do still learn a lot more about the Nether, as we get to see how Cathy navigates the strict social avenues in her attempts to appease Will and aid his attempts to become the new Duke of Londinium. Its patriarchal ways are very similar to those of Edwardian or Victorian England, with it being easy to empathise with Cathy as she struggles to hold her tongue when difficult conversation topics arise. She is under fire from all sides, with Will pressurising her to be a good wife and consummate their marriage, both Lord Poppy and Iris hoping for a child and the Iris family wanting her to uphold their good name.
As with the first book, the passages from Cathy’s perspective were my favourites as she is such an easy character to relate to and understand. She is almost suffocated by the multitude of tasks placed upon her shoulders, especially when all she wants is to lead a normal life in Mundanus. Married life was never on her agenda, especially not to a socialite like Will, but her responses to him do change throughout the novel. She starts off determined to repel him in the hopes of annulling their marriage, as she is well aware of his attraction to Amelia and the potential for him to keep her as a mistress. However, she does warm to him as she realises that Will has been forced into this just as much as she has, realising that he does care for her and endeavouring to maintain their outward appearance of domestic bliss. I liked how much she grew as a character in this book, as her steel resolve to liberate herself is expanded to incorporate all those other women in the Nether who might be unhappy with their condition.
I found myself enjoying Will’s perspective as well, because we get to see both sides of their marriage and the pressures that the Iris family have placed upon his shoulders to claim Londinium on behalf of their family. He has gone to great lengths to impress upon Cathy the importance of their marriage, and does genuinely care for her, which is one of his redeeming features. However, I had such conflicting emotions over him as I liked him in book one and liked him for the majority of book two, but had issues surrounding his treatment of the marital consummation. When Cathy fails to comply with his wishes he runs straight into Amelia’s arms, and I had genuine concerns that he was going to force her into sleeping with him in order to produce an Iris heir. This isn’t to say that this was a bad thing, as it definitely added to the drama of the book and pulled me in even further.
The one area in which I would say the book was slightly let down was again in Max’s perspective, as I didn’t feel that his goals were clearly enough defined. However, regardless of this he was still pivotal in uncovering several shifty goings-on, and I’m intrigued to see how the backlash from this affects the characters in book three, and how The Agency might respond. His story was closely linked to Sam’s, who is slowly discovering more about himself and the connection he appears to have to Lord Iron, as well as a potential conspiracy plot surrounding his wife’s too-good-to-be-true boss.
Another fantastic instalment to The Split Worlds series, I loved book two even more than book one and think this series is definitely one to watch. The ending of the novel had me completely on edge and closed with such a big bang that I was completely in shock. I definitely didn’t see some of the twists coming and the level of treachery from several of the characters is unbelievable, even from those characters I’d grown to love. This series is fantastically written, with Newman knowing just how to grab the reader’s interest before delivering one hell of an emotional punch. I am excitedly awaiting book three, and luckily I won’t have too long to wait.
This series is definitely one that has piqued my interest recently, and this book pulled me even further into Cathy’s desperation, Will’s social climb and Sam’s emotional upheaval from his Mundane life. Again I was a little unsure about the sections from Max’s perspective as they often felt a little confused, but I am slowly growing to like him as a character and am hooked by the strong levels of treachery in Nether society. Several questions were left open at the conclusion and I can’t wait to see how these pan out in book three.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Between Two Thorns
- Any Other Name
- All Is Fair
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