I thought this book was far better than the first one. I was hesitant to pick it up at first because the first book was a bit disappointing, but this one improved on the first in almost every way.
The character development in book two was the biggest difference for me. Tom starts to come into his own. He starts to trust himself more and he makes mistakes along the way, but he has solid reasoning for his actions and he’s willing to accept the consequences of his choices. I really like characters who are smart, independent, but fallible. Tom’s working his way towards that. The Spook also changed a lot during the book, but that was due more to the insights into his past, rather than any personality or behavioral change.
Another strong point in the book was the villain. The Bane was far more menacing than Mother Malkin in the first book. That ominous presence gave the book a lot more tension and made the story more enjoyable. It also felt like something was genuinely at stake for the protagonists. I didn’t get that in the first book. The only issue that I had was that it seemed to be really early in the series to have Tom and the Spook face off against this level of monster.
The ending was good, but a little disappointing. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but if the victim in the catacombs had been one of the other protagonists, I think it would have helped give the story more depth than it had. I get that it’s a youth book and not the Game of Thrones, but the tone of the world is very dark, and having a meaningful death in the series would help establish that. Granted, I don’t know what’s coming and maybe all the characters have important roles to play in future books, but it still felt like a missed opportunity.