I'm not quite sure much happens in this book that didn't already happen in the first book. Evil people are doing evil things, there's a war raging, there are riots, the world is in shambles, and it's up to Nya to save the day... again. It bugs me a bit still that the people in this book are so black-and-white and one-dimensional. If you're bad, you're bad; if you're good, you're good.
And Nya seems to be the only one with a gray-area-of-morality compass that keeps getting questioned by herself and even her friends. And then we rehash the same dilemmas that I had thought Nya had already established a somewhat of a conclusion to already. Mainly, her use of her Shifting powers to heal and hurt others keeps being pinned by herself and her best friend as morally incorrect and disgusting.
And while I stand on the point that torture and violence and killing is an evil, when you are an high fantasy with worlds at war with one another, maybe violence ends up being a necessary evil. Because then, why is it okay for others to use weapons (swords, daggers, etc.) to hurt or kill others, but it's wrong of Nya to use her own resources to keep someone from killing her? A sword can kill just as easily as her shifting pain into someone else, however, with a sword, dead is dead. Apparently with shifted pain you still get a chance so long as you can find a Healer and a slab of pynvium to relieve that pain.
So you want Nya to heal people and do good, but you don't want to see her shifting that pain into someone else even if it will kill her if she keeps it for too long? The idea of shifting pain back and forth from one person to another's not so bad an idea though, since this action apparently leaves no lasting side-effects (how convenient).
Despite the fact that she hates seeing her own "healing" powers as a weapon of potential mass destruction, the fact is, she just needs to accept what she can do and use appropriately... as she has been doing continually. Which then makes me wonder what all the whining about her guilty conscience is about if she's just going to ignore it anyway, then wallow in self-pity. This world is on the brink of war and destruction and it seems everyone else will not stop to reconsidering chopping your head off, but you're going to hesitate to "shift" pain into someone else because it could kill them if they can't heal themselves first?
This is probably why children shouldn't be the world's one hope in bringing peace in the midst of bloody war. I'm not saying that children can't save the world given the right resources and determination; it just seems like a heck of a whole lot to put on a child's shoulders just because she seems to be different. Or, even if Nya is the singular hope of saving the world, she should at least have some handy friends and experienced war veterans or soldiers to help her out.
I'm not certain how I feel about how competent her friends and the adult rebels are in this book. And Nya, herself, is a full stewing pot of rash decisions and no planning ahead and eventually ends up causing more trouble than not. Then again, there was enough monotony in the narration that maybe I missed some significant and genius rebellion plot somewhere that didn't involve biding your time until you could publicly humiliate the great evil villain, The Duke, and make him concede his throne... because... then what?
Of course, despite the repetitiveness of this second book from the first book, and despite the flatness and one-dimensional-ness of all the characters, I guess I managed to enjoy reading the book just fine. I just wished there was more to it than such a simple, The Duke is evil because he's evil and needs to be defeated. Nya's friends and sister keep getting kidnapped and it's up to her to save all of them. Something always ends up blowing up and nearly killing everyone. The magical "technology" in this book keeps evolving with no indication of how anything works, and I'm still teetering about the magic system and the healing process that still makes little sense.
While a lot of backstory begins to unravel concerning Nya's family, still very little is known about her (or even her friends). And even less is known about the world and the three countries that are portrayed in this world. We barely glimpse the surface of the cultures in a vague attempt to illustrate a setting. More enchanters are introduced, but their significance dwindles just as quickly as they appeared--and so I have no idea what enchanters do and why they merit being labeled as such if all they'd been doing is melting pynvium and molding them into weapons.
Or did I miss something, somewhere?
Anyway, I'll be finishing this series if only to find out how the entire war turns out and what other troubles Nya manages to get herself into and how she'll finally save the world without getting kidnapped again.