Author: Cindy Pon
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now
Summary: Sacrifice, the sequel to Serpentine, plunges Skybright into the terrifying underworld where demons are bred and whisks her up to the magnificent Mountain of Heavenly Peace where the gods dwell.
Stone is stripped of his immortal status and told to close hell’s breach, which mysteriously remains open, threatening mortals.
Zhen Ni, Skybright’s former mistress and friend, has been wed to the strange and brutish Master Bei, and finds herself trapped in an opulent but empty manor. When she discovers half-eaten corpses beneath the estate, she realizes that Master Bei is not all that he seems.
As Skybright works to free Zhen Ni with the aid of Kai Sen and Stone, they begin to understand that what is at risk is more far-reaching then they could ever have fathomed.
Review: After reading Serpentine earlier this year, I knew I had to get my hands on the sequel. I’m happy to report that everything I loved about the first book is here: fantastic world-building, unique characters, and memorable mythology.
Cindy Pon still excels in writing descriptive passages, whether that’s clothing, fight scenes, building layouts, or supernatural/demonic creatures. Her ability to set a scene is remarkable, and I loved her descriptions of the underworld to the Mountain of Heavenly Peace and everywhere in between. Pon made good use of Skybright’s reliance on smell and life-sensing in this book—it was a great way to show that Skybright was developing and getting used to her abilities as a serpent demon.
While Skybright was the sole narrator in Serpentine, the scope of Sacrifice was wide enough that two additional POVs were necessary: Zhen Ni and Kai Sen. Of the two of these, Zhen Ni was the strongest, and her slow discovery of what was truly going on in her new husband’s manor was terrifying in the best sorts of ways. Kai Sen had an important, though not as compelling, part of the narrative. It was great when their plots converged with Skybright’s, and I admired the (somewhat tumultuous) friendship and love between them. I enjoyed being able to get their takes on the events of the previous book and see them drive their respective plots forward in this book.
In the previous book, I didn’t like Stone all that much, which made my eventual appreciation of him in this book all the more surprising. Getting his powers stripped from him—and thus no longer able to drag Skybright around with him at his whim—definitely helped me (and Skybright) stop hating him entirely. I’m still not sure how I feel about the romance that developed between Skybright and Stone, because while it felt better paced than the one between Skybright and Kai Sen in the previous book, something Stone forced Skybright to do prior to losing his powers crossed my “actions that are acceptable for love interests” line. And once that line is crossed, I can’t completely get rid of the nagging voice that says the heroine should run the other way, even if he consistently proves he isn’t that person anymore.
Recommendation: Get it soon, especially if you enjoyed Serpentine. It was a treat to come back to the Kingdom of Xia, and while I’m a little sad that this will be the last book to focus on Skybright, I feel like this was a good place to conclude her story. I’m looking forward to Cindy Pon’s next work, both in the Kingdom of Xia and outside of it.