Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Leaving Blackwood takes the momentum and world-building established by the first, and uses it as a foundational point to build more.
Instead of wiping people’s characterisations and development to start from scratch, a common pitfall of sequels, Leaving Blackwood instead continues the development of the characters, with the lion’s share going without question to Freya.
While Beau was the surprise standout of the first book, there is absolutely no doubt in Leaving Blackwood that Freya is the star of the show.
She has taken back her spotlight and she commands the stage, so much so that I read this in one sitting and then read it two more times just so I could figure out what I was going to say.
Freya and James
While Freya absolutely is, without question, the best part of this book, the silver medal goes to James, the little voice in her head who she has a great dynamic with.
Their dialogue is witty as they bounce really well off each other, with James being a cynical, self-centred, world-wise juggernaut of lethal intent who takes on the role as Freya’s dark conscience and grumpy life coach.
Freya – the ‘morally grey character’
Freya, meanwhile, is a fountain of sass and an increasingly interesting morally grey character, who slowly starts pushing at her boundaries of ‘where do I draw the line’ and is finding there is a lot more give to it then previously established, and it’s not clear of all of that is just James’s influence.
Her struggle to keep herself and her darker impulses in check is fascinating to read.
Beau doesn’t do as much in this book as he did previously, but he does work well as a supportive boyfriend and a good vector to allow Freya to keep tabs of things in Blackwood while she’s gone.
He does have a few minor impacts, serving as something of a catalysing incident in the beginning to lead to Freya doing the titular leaving Blackwood, and providing as a link to her home.
He also ends up having ties to the villain that is introduced at the end of the book, setting up the final antagonist of the trilogy.
Speaking of antagonists, the main antagonist in this book is a ‘royal family’ of supers, who want to use Freya’s powers and connections to Blackwood for their own ends.
The main royal Freya interacts with is the crown prince, who tries to style himself as the third point of a love triangle, though, refreshingly, it doesn’t really go anywhere and Freya seems to view him as a pest-turned-begrudging ally-turned-potential friend.
He’s a great character, bringing his own flavour of snark and sass to a book that is packed with witty characters as far as the eye can see.
He also has his own goals within the novel, and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes now that the story moves into the third book.
Leaving Blackwood does is the second in a trilogy, but it avoids a lot of the pitfalls that many second books plummet into.
Leaving Blackwood has some excellent emotional moments, including one right at the end with James that absolutely broke my heart.
The set-up for the next antagonist proves very interesting, as it slides from ‘decadent and corrupt evil empire’ to ‘personalised mirror antagonist’, which is a good final boss to have, especially with Freya having upped her power level and skill so much.