Book 2 is quite unusual in a way, in its formatting. For quite a bit of the book we come away from the Academy and the need to free the Tornesal line from the curse, as Kiram's first year at the Academy comes to an end and he returns to his home. The pacing slows down as we learn more about Kiram's family and culture, and in some ways we lose sight a little of the evil forces acting outside the Anacleto district. It's almost like it's a little cocoon of safety, a brief respite from the evil. But that's all it can be, as the 'man on the hill' will not be satisfied until he's taken the white hill from Javier.
I think it would have been harder to make this work as one book (putting Books 1 and 2 together). The increase in tension in Book 1 is steady, then in Book 2 it drops away, only in the last part to come flooding back as events take on a momentum of their own.
One thing we do get here, because we are away from the Academy for a lot of the book is a deeper insight into Kiram as a person. Partly because we see him away from Javier, and also because we see him through the eyes of his family. I think in particular it is his older brother Majdi who sees Kiram most clearly.
Majdi sighed heavily. "Sometimes you're so smart that it makes you stupid."Though Kiram may be able to fool the other members of his family for a while, Majdi sees straight through to what Kiram is trying to hide. I also thought it illustrated very well how young Kiram still is, even through all he's experienced. He's grown up a lot, but he's still a little too cocky at times and fond of making assumptions. I especially liked how Ginn Hale shows us that family dynamics can have the effect of reducing you to behaving like a child.
This could have been quite a dark book, which I think maybe is another reason we have the interlude in Anacleto (the Haldiim district). It gives us not only the opportunity to see how different Haldiim culture is to Cadeleonian culture. But also gives us some moments of humour and my favourite exchange between Javier and Kiram in the book.
"...ask him why he didn't leave anything for me." There was only a trace of hurt in Javier's tone but Kiram responded to it immediately.In a way the relationship between Javier and Kiram doesn't feel as much the focus here. They are both going through their own crises, it would be nice to be able to see where they go from the end of the story. I have a feeling that both they and their relationship is going to have to mature very quickly. I wonder if we have Rafie and Alizadeh as a kind of example as to where Kiram and Javier will end up.
"What? But I did - " Kiram stopped as he caught Javier's smug expression. He scowled at Javier. "I left a fart on your pillow."
I must briefly mention the character of Elezar - one of the Hellions and Nestor's older brother. (Nestor being Kiram's best friend). He's quite a sad character. And Ginn Hale doesn't give us an awful lot about him, just these tiny little insights, for example when Kiram sneaks into his room to leave a Solstice present and we discover his secret. Elezar is not a subtle character, he is not a subtle man, but Ginn Hale is subtle in the way she reveals his feelings. And I do find myself wondering if Nestor knows, just something he said about his brother towards the end.
I think Lord of the White Hell (Book 1 & 2) is one of my favourite stories of the year. I love how Ginn Hale (in her writing) is able to make the story complete in itself and leave you satisfied with what happened, but she also leaves you ready to learn more. She leaves you knowing that there are other stories to be told, which I think is an incredible gift for any writer to give a reader. And I look forward to seeing what she will be doing in 2011.