A Vault of Sins presents an interesting challenge to review: although it retains the gritty and mature flavor of the first book, it did feel very much like a sophomore middle child in terms of story and character growth. As well, heavy parallels to Hunger Games did make this feel like an ‘already-read’ title. And yet, it is an engaging read even if little happens until the end.
Story: Evalyn is on the outside – free of the Compass Room but still laboring under survivor’s remorse. The world is evaluating if the Compass Room glitched or if it performed as it should but only seemed to glitch. Evalyn has a choice – fight for the truth or roll over and take a settlement from the Compass Room creators to remain silent. When she chooses to fight, new evidence will surface, she will be further alienated from family/friends due to the publicity of the trial, and she will run the risk of being thrown back into a new Compass Room if she can’t prove the glitch. But there are others who secretly question the validity of the Compass Rooms – and their resistance will take a pointed interest in Evalyn’s surviving Compass Room group. Enough to possibly send her back in?
As can be seen from the synopsis, there are several parallels to Hunger Games and its sequel – with a lot of the same problems of a second book that is more bridge than story continuation. At least with A Vault of Sins, Evalyn is very aware of why she would go back in and can make the choice on her own. It does raise intriguing questions but from early on, we know what Evalyn’s choice would be. As well, events don’t move forward really until the last 15% of the book, making for a laborious read at times.
The gritty, hard edged nature of the first book is escalated here. Plenty of drinking and sex to compensate for the horrific events of the first book and we are treated continually to Evalyn’s obsessive mopey self deprecation. The book does have its moments, though: a confrontation near the end between Evalyn and her love interest Casey about her drinking was extremely poignant, for example. But this is definitely Evalyn’s book – Casey ends up more an accessory in the same way Peeta was an accessory to Katniss. Those loving a strong willed main character will appreciate that distinction though others who prefer a strong male lead may be somewhat frustrated.
I rate this a strong 3.5 stars because it kept me invested despite jumping around often and not really focusing on a coherent and smooth flow of story. Most of the book is anticipation of the final 10% – that’s a lot of story to cover until then and it takes awhile for author Harian to put the pieces together that will propel Evalyn to the set up of the third book.
I don’t typically continue with series I rate less than 4 stars. But the edginess of the writing and the promise there are enough to encourage following the series and seeing where Harian will go with Evalyn’s story.
Reviewed from an ARC.