3.75You may recall from my review of The Iron King that I felt a little let down. It's not that I disliked it, really, but everyone had absolutely raved about it that I had high hopes -- and they weren't quite met. This time around, I still don't feel like my original expectations have been matched, but Kagawa has come a damn sight nearer. I still had a few of the same issues, but to a lesser extent, and on the whole I found this one better developed and more enjoyable all around.Basically, I still sometimes questioned Meghan's choices and her learning curve; she does make fewer ridiculous deals with faeries, but I wonder at her making any. She should know better by now. I also buy her relationship with Ash a little more, and her general humanness when feelings for Puck also come into play. It's something that would normally annoy me because it seems like too much of a gimmick, but in this case (for the most part, for the time being), Kagawa actually seemed to make it work in a way that felt authentic. Meghan doesn't feel like both men are her soulmates and how will she ever choose, she feels like she likes Puck and really likes Ash, but lust and pure I-shouldn't-be-doing-this are factors, and it all comes off as more authentic and teen and true than I was expecting. (Please note I am still opposed to all of the "team" BS.)I still had a bit of an issue with the fumbling-then-suddenly-allpowerful thing that I mentioned in TIK. It's a crutch, and it can be wishy-washy. I'm not going to believe your person who was so damsel-like then suddenly discovers she's got kick ass powers, then...forgets?...and is a damsel, then discovers, then has them blocked, then discovers, latherrinserepeat. Yes, self-discovery is cool and teen-appropriate. But I want to buy in, and I don't want to think that everything impossible is going to be cleared away at the end with a sweep of a hand that, oh look!, has magic in it after all. Especially when I can see it coming a miiiiile away.But beyond that, I found this one pretty enjoyable. It was still visual and current like the first one, but with a good deal of growth, and some interesting developments where the characters are concerned that impressed me. Kagawa wasn't afraid to embrace the gray area in this, and showing that things aren't black and white, and that there is good and bad, darkness and light, in everyone did a good deal to make this more mature.* I don't know that I am going to put #3, The Iron Queen (who didn't see that coming?) at the top of my To Read pile, but I certainly will read it, and if the growth from Kagawa continues, I may even be impressed.*Of course, there are still stock characters present to undermine this. Her villains don't seem to get the same treatment to layer them and add depth, they are simply Bad, capital B.