Laura Anne Gilman’s Curse the Dark is the less-strong sequel to Staying Dead. There’s either too much or too little information in the space available, and while I can’t quite tell which, the overall effect is unfortunate.
Curse the Dark is made up of three different strands. First, a parchment’s gone missing from an Italian monastery: everyone who’s read it has disappeared, so it’s obviously not the kind of thing that should be unaccounted for. Wren and Sergei are hired to retrieve it by the Silence, Sergei’s ex-employer, a secretive organization of do-gooders. Second, there’s Wren and Sergei’s relationship, which got kicked past “partnership” mode in the last book, but has since stalled out. Third, there’s politics: intrigue is happening within and/or between the Silence; the Council, which nominally rules the Talented world; the lonejacks, human Talents who don’t acknowledge the Council; the fatae, nonhumans; and possibly some other groups I’m forgetting.
It’s only a third of the book, Wren and Sergei’s relationship, that I think fully works. Retrieving the parchment is mostly okay, though it seems somewhat rushed at the end. Also, perhaps I’m just thick, but I can’t quite tell to what extent it’s related to the final part of the book, the politics.
It’s the political intrigue that was the biggest problem for me. Either there wasn’t room to explain what-all was going on, or that information is being kept for a later book (the epilogue has me leaning in this direction), or both—but when a major player unexpectedly walks into a meeting of some of these groups, stays for two hours and seven minutes, and we’re never told what the player said, well, something’s seriously off-balance. Just as a for-instance. And this reader gets annoyed.
I’ll read the third one (Bring It On, due in July), because I like Wren and Sergei a lot, but I really hope it’s structured more like a complete book than this one was.