Series: Monster Haven, Book 3
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 236 Pages
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Carina Press via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Fun Times with Zoey's Friends
Inveterate wedding planner by day and sole Aegis in the whole of the country by night...and day...and, well, every moment in between, Zoey Donovan is feeling the strain of the growing needs of the Hidden who are showing up at her door. The influx of magical, mystical, and beastly traffic has gotten so bad that even with the help of her closet monster Maurice and several other good friends of both the human and Hidden variety she's just barely squeaking by.
With a dire message about impending doom looming on the horizon and refugees with tales of Hidden loved ones being abducted, it's quite clear that things are just going to get worse. Something is coming. Something bad. And if the pattern of the mass exodus of Hidden and reports of the missing bear out, that something is heading right for the only Aegis left who can do anything at all to stop it...if it doesn't stop her first.
I'm a huge fan of this series. I love the world and I couldn't be happier with the wide array of wildly colorful and eminently lovable characters. Zoey is quirky and fun and one of the more unique heroines I've read in urban fantasy, but it's really the secondary characters who have stolen my heart. Closet monster Maurice in particular and the rest of Zoey's crazy coterie of friends in general elevate each book and make almost every single moment of each one of them a real good time to read.
I can't say this was my favorite of the three books, though. It started a little slow for me. Despite my rabid adoration of the veritable cornucopia of Hidden misfits who find their way to Zoey's home, I felt the development and execution of the story's main plot conflict got off to a rocky and anemic start in the first half of the book. For the first time in the series, I felt my attention waning more than once, wondering when the meat of the plot was going to really get going.
Fortunately it does get going, and when it does, there are several intense, action-packed, emotional moments (one of which broke my heart) and a couple of big developments that helped broaden and deepen the series plot arc. There's some very solid and highly entertaining storytelling going on in this book, for sure. I just I felt like the story tread water for too long before all that goodness really started.
I also can't say I cared for the return of a character we met in the first book. I wouldn't call Councilwoman Alma Dickson a Big Bad, really. She wasn't the story's main antagonist in this book any more than she was in the first, but she was just as big a tertiary source of conflict in this one as she was before. That felt a little too much like double-dipping into the character pool for me to really appreciate the conflict with her here.
On a brighter note, this is the first time in the series that I didn't have issues with Riley, Zoey's main squeeze. I haven't been impressed with him in the series to date, and still can't say he thrills me as Zoey's romantic interest, but he played a larger role in this one than in either of the previous books and I didn't mind having him around at all. He just seemed to have more of a presence in this book, and I liked it. His relationship with Zoey also gets some much-needed evolution in this one and I liked that, as well. I just wish they had more chemistry.
Naquin keeps surprising me, too. Zoey's wacky life and the wonderful weirdness that comes from the Hidden lend a lighter, more humorous tone to the series than the grittier, more dystopian urban fantasy series out there. That said, in each book there have been elements that remind me that Zoey's world isn't all fun and games by any stretch. There are Bad Things that happen to and around her characters. Very Bad Things. I won't discuss any spoilery stuff here, but the Bad Thing that happens in this one hit me hard and left me reeling.
This wasn't a perfect book for me, but I think it was an important one for Zoey's continued development and the evolution of the series. The issues I had with the external conflict were a bit more serious than they were in the previous book, and I'm a little worried that neither one was quite up to the fun level of the series debut. I love this world and the characters so much that I want to love everything else, too. I hope to get another chance to try soon, because I really can't wait to spend more time with Zoey and her fabulous friends.