Huge shout out to Random House Children’s Books and Crown Books for the advance reader of Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen.
There’s no middle book slump here. If anything, Nyxia Unleashed is a stunning sequel and the perfect middle book in the Nyxia Triad.
What is it that made Nyxia Unleashed break through the middle book slump that seems to plague trilogies? Tone. What do I mean by that? It’s a phenomenal balance of somber themes and funny moments, of hard realities and hope. One thing that gets under my skin is that YA characters sometimes forget they are teenagers. *No, I am no longer a teenager and this may be completely wrong because I’m basing this off personal experience. Sure; be the hero, save that day, but what about the inner struggle, the turmoil, the fact that there are very real transitions going on in that character’s personal life? I guess I feel like sometimes YA teenagers aren’t allowed to be awkward, or freaking out about life, or taking a moment to just be. This may be more relevant in contemporary, but in SFF this seems to almost never get addressed (I will exclude The Illuminae Files from this). That said, Nyxia Unleashed showed me that this notion can be dealt with in SFF YA. Maybe it’s just me, but I have never seen such an on point cast of teenage characters struggling with identity and transition and balancing “saving the world” as I have while reading Nyxia Unleashed. I won’t spoil anything, but Scott Reintgen proves that teenagers can be teenagers in YA science fiction.
How Scott addresses the concepts of race and class is woven with delicate threads. The line between diversity and division are strong and relevant in Nyxia Unleashed with good reason. It’s provoking. I’d call it a major thread throughout the book and it’s beautiful to watch understanding take hold of these characters as they learn more about the world they’ve entered, the people they meet, and each other.
My favorite thing about Nyxia and Nyxia Unleashed is Emmett. I can’t name another character that comes close to Emmett and how he leaps off the page. How he addresses “Good and Evil”, the rationalizing of horrific events and finding a way to counter that. His use of “be good” doesn’t replace or diminished the bad things or forgive it. His entire concept of “do better next time” is the most realistic portrayal I’ve seen when handling topics of violence and war. It’s close to the notion of “forgive, but don’t forget” value of profoundness that sometimes gets lost in YA’s darker stories of revenge or retribution. I know at the end of Nyxia Unleashed Emmett is struggling with this and wants to get even, teetering on that edge of destruction, and coming into Nyxia Uprising I know Emmett has hit that breaking point.
Yeah, that was an intense review. There are seriously no words to describe how intense and vibrant Nyxia Unleashed is, but I never once felt like it was too dark or too somber. The moments of hidden joy, the snatches of life that throw inhibition out the window are the things that make this book such a gem and treasure trove of relatable characters. And did I mention there’s an utterly fantastic food scene? You all know I’m a fool for food scenes, right?
I wouldn’t normally say a second book in a trilogy is my favorite, but Nyxia Unleashed is. While I’m sad to see the end of this entire cast of characters, I also am dying to know what happens next in Nyxia Uprising.
Until the next time,
The Literary Empress