Review: “Passionaries (The Blessed #2)” by Tonya Hurley


17860324Title: “Passionaries (The Blessed #2)”

Author: Tonya Hurley

Publication Date: January 7, 2014 (S&S – North America)

Genre: YA, retellings, AWESOME

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: Agnes, Cecelia, and Lucy watched as Sebastian sacrificed himself for what he believed in. Will the girls trust that their destiny as saints and martyrs and perform the miracles as Sebastian instructed? Or lose faith in themselves and each other in his absence? Time is running out for them to make a decision, and the fate of the world lies in the balance.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – a great middle book to this trilogy!

Review: Man. If you guys liked book one, “Passionaries” is definitely going to knock your socks off. Going to places that I didn’t think Hurley would go in this retelling/modernization of the lives of three Catholic saints, “Passionaries” shows the lives of three girls forever changed and now with the weight of the world on their backs with all of the creepiness that I was hoping for. If there’s an awesome retelling middle trilogy book out there for the year, it’s definitely this one.

What I think I loved the most about this book was the very realness of fame being shoved into the faces of Lucy, Agnes, and Cecelia. They didn’t ask for it. All they did was fall in love with one boy, and religion kind of happened in the process. It begs the question -even  with religion (or magic, depending on how you look at it) involved, what happens when you suddenly give fame to three very vulnerable girls?

We get some very gritty (and ugly) answers. And I loved every single moment of it.

What continues to amaze me is how deftly Hurley weaves in and out of the original saint stories and makes them not strictly about religion, but more about  magical realism. Really, it’s the best of both worlds from a writing point of view – you can claim the religious, paranormal, or magical realism genres all at once without really having to seriously commit to any of them. And adding in the contemporary parts makes it all feel very real – that we do have these three girls that suddenly have been gifted with these abilities, and that this strange evil (and the media) like a pack of vultures, really do want to rip them apart for it.

So, I guess you could say that the worldbuilding got better in this installment. By leaps. Even though it was pretty damned good to begin with.

Hurley uses a lot of humor to keep us grounded, to keep us in the moment and not to go too far into the horrible gifts these girls have received (or what their futures may hold – will they end up like their namesakes?), and also as a general building block for these girls’ characters, and the bond that they share. It makes the contemporary work with this retelling really, really well, and not once did I raise an eyebrow or question whether or not these girls existed. Character building? Definitely a big leap in this department too.

But mostly, this book explores that aforementioned question – what does fame do to a couple of vulnerable teenage girls, who, up until now, have lead very ordinary (and depressing, in some cases) lives? Hurley shines in how she digs into that question with each character, and how it connects to Sebastian, book one, and each girl’s past; creating this swirling maelstrom of doom (yeah, I just said “doom” in a review) that you can’t help but feel when you read it. Will their namesakes’ fates take over their futures? Will they be eaten instead by the media, and the cycle of fame and the narcissism (which is a sad byproduct) of that cycle? I won’t tell you the answer (because it’s definitely a huge factor for the upcoming book three), but the results are very interesting. One way that Hurley looks at fame is as compared to quicksand – you don’t have long in the spotlight, and you’re being dragged down with each breath you take – which makes book three all that more appetizing.

Final verdict? I love how Hurley has grown as a writer, and I don’t think she could have done it without writing this trilogy. I can’t wait for book three. “Passionaries” is out now in North America from Simon and Schuster, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!

 

 

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