*This review will contain spoilers!*
First off, I need to say a massive thank you to Oxford University Press Children's Books for approving my request to review this title from NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
When I get advanced copies of books, I like to read them by their release date, but sadly I've only just finished 'Stung' a week after it came out. Sometimes, life gets in the way, and sometimes you don't realise a book is a sequel until it's too late. If you haven't checked out my review of 'Struck' (also known as 'Storm and Stone') I'd say you should go and read that one first! But anyway, because this review is being posted a week after the release date, I'm just going to put all of my spoiler thoughts straight into this one review, so fasten your seatbelts, we're in for a bit of a ride.
If you've read Joss Stirling's 'Finding Sky' series, you'll know that each of her books focused on a different main character, even though the previous protagonists were included in the action too. The same thing happens in the Struck series, with 'Stung' focusing upon Nathan Hunter, a member of the YDA who was included as a minor character in the first book, and Kate Pearl, an ex-YDA member who is on the run - but from who? Kieran and Raven, both protagonists from the original novel, are both included in this book, but as more secondary characters. If you're looking to read 'Stung' because you loved the original characters, you will not be disappointed - their story does get expanded upon, even though they aren't the focal point of the novel.
This book introduces a lot of the back story of the YDA: why Isaac decided to create the organisation, some of the previous missions that had been undertaken, and why they were so adamant about the rule of 'no relationships while on a mission' in the first book. I love a good back story, so the fact that this entire novel was based on the return of Kate, where she'd been for the last twelve months and how her mission in Jakarta went so disastrously wrong... I was hooked from the first page. Whereas 'Struck' seemed to take a long time to get into the story and lulled regularly throughout, the fact that this entire novel was set in the YDA organisation meant that there was a lot more action and a lot less private school drama. However, we still managed to get a lot of personality from the characters: Nathan and Kate going on the run together was a great technique to find out more about her judgments of the YDA, while having Kate write a letter describing all of her escapades in Jakarta meant that we managed to get a bulk of back story delivered in a way that was convincing rather than contrived.
The only problem I had with this novel was the fact that I worked out who the leak in the YDA was within the first couple of chapters. When a character isn't referenced in the first novel, but suddenly starts popping up regularly in the second book, you know that there's something amiss with that person. In the first novel, there were no mentions of Isaac's secretary, Mrs Macdonald, so when she was slotted into the cast without any fanfare it seemed obvious to me that she would be closely interlinked with the plot, and it was disappointing when my suspicions were confirmed.
Really though, even with working out who the bad guy was within the first couple of chapters, I still enjoyed this book. Because they didn't start throwing the blame at other people and seemed to acknowledge the fact that they had no idea who could be a traitor, it didn't annoy me so much - one thing that always gets on my nerves is when the reader knows who the bad guy is and has to watch someone else be punished for it, but that didn't happen in 'Stung' which I appreciated. There were some parallels between the first book and the second book: the inner monologues when Nathan and Kate were falling for each other but not admitting it, a comment about saying "no offence" and then going on to offend someone, and the fact that Isaac jumped in to help save the day at the end of the book - but those parallels were few and far between. I had been worried that 'Stung' was going to mirror the first novel almost exactly, so it was very interesting to have such a contrasting plot.
If there's a third book in this series I will definitely be ordering it, because it's definitely improving as the time goes on. b