My rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Publisher: Tor Teen (March 2014)
Length: 380 pgs
Series: The Arkwell Academy (#2)
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal Fiction
Format: Hardcover, checked out from my local library
Goodreads Synopsis: Dusty Everhart might be able to predict the future through the dreams of her crush, Eli Booker, but that doesn’t make her life even remotely easy. When one of her mermaid friends is viciously assaulted and left for dead, and the school’s jokester, Lance Rathbone, is accused of the crime, Dusty’s as shocked as everybody else. Lance needs Dusty to prove his innocence by finding the real attacker, but that’s easier asked than done. Eli’s dreams are no help, more nightmares than prophecies.
To make matters worse, Dusty’s ex-boyfriend has just been acquitted of conspiracy and is now back at school, reminding Dusty of why she fell for him in the first place. The Magi Senate needs Dusty to get close to him, to discover his real motives. But this order infuriates Eli, who has started his own campaign for Dusty’s heart.
As Dusty takes on both cases, she begins to suspect they’re connected to something bigger. And there’s something very wrong with Eli’s dreams, signs that point to a darker plot than they could have ever imagined.
I was pleasantly surprised by the first book in the series, The Nightmare Affair, after stumbling upon it at my local library despite never having heard of it before. I was able to pick up the sequel right away, and found it to be a charming installment in a series that seems to be finding its own footing better and better in each installment, although with some less-than-original elements.
In my review of The Nightmare Affair, I mentioned how the series did seem to borrow quite a bit from the Harry Potter series and that I had mixed feelings regarding that. This book borrows less on Harry Potter but I did notice that it drew upon a lot of early British fiction that dealt with the supernatural, such as the tales of King Arthur, The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, and on The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (a personal favorite of mine!) I think it’s neat that Arnett draws upon classical texts (and even has some of the characters interact with such texts) in her supernatural world, as they provide such a wealth on inspiration.
Character relationships definitely get more developed in this book, with Selene being more involved in the action and Eli being a worthy love interest (although the tension between Eli and Dusty was so infuriating throughout the entire book and after a while I just became rather bitter about being strung along). Dusty has definitely become less of a social pariah and is coming into her powers more and more, but at times I grew tired of how dependent her character was on using sarcasm as a defense mechanism and of how bad of a snoop she is (seriously, how can someone get caught that often).
This book added a lot more political intrigue into the series, while addressing the growing tension between the magical races at both an adult and teenage level. I found this to be really interesting, especially since all magickind are divided amongst three types (darkkind, naturekind, and witchkind). I really like the way Arnett plays with so many different genres of magical creatures and how they interact under a single governing system, and it was nice to see some locations in the magical world featured that were outside the school.
Overall: The Nightmare Dilemma improved in writing style and storytelling over its predecessor, and Arnett creatively incorporates so many different kinds of magical creatures. However, at times the character interactions were frustrating and the plot felt a bit muddled with how often the characters were thwarted. I think the series will continue to get better with every book and I will be continuing on with it, and the covers are gorgeous!
You can read my review of The Nightmare Affair here: