Beyond Nel Mezzo (The Nel Mezzo Series Book 2)
Author: Jennifer Sloane
Published: 08 September 2017 by Jennifer Sloane
Personal Context: NetGalley sent me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When an evil trickster worms his way into the real world through a rift in virtual reality, Celeste must once again rise to the occasion and defeat him before he can destroy Nel Mezzo and take over the world. Recovering from a nearly fatal encounter with Lyme Disease, Celeste must find her inner strength and return to Nel Mezzo to confront this new enemy. Having risen from his comma unable to walk, Gabe is eager to return to Nel Mezzo where he can be free from the earthly constraints of his condition.
Their joy at returning to their paradise is cut short when the Guardian banishes Celeste and Gabe to a planet in a far corner of the universe. Before she can return to defend Nel Mezzo, Celeste must first resolve matters between the Original Creatures and the Outsiders who inhabit this planet. When Gabe is caught in the middle of the struggle between these warring factions, can Celeste save him and return to Nel Mezzo in time?
Celeste will have to pair up with two of the Original Creatures in order to complete her mission and save her beau. It doesn’t help that one of those creatures is a handsome empathic shapeshifter who is determined to win her heart. With or without Gabe, Celeste must find a way to save Nel Mezzo, and quickly, because the fate of her world also hangs in the balance.
*Does contain spoilers related to the first title in the series*
My Review of…
…The Plot and Pace:
Unlike the first book in the series, Beyond Nel Mezzo establishes a plot almost instantly. Unimpeded with the necessity of introducing her protagonist, Jennifer Sloane is able to immediately hook her audience with the beginning of the story. As we saw in her first title, Sloane yet again introduces a question that puzzles both Celeste and the reader. In Journey, it was “What is this game all about?” Of course, we come to find out that this game is actually a fight for survival.
The biggest difference between Journey and Beyond, at least in terms of plot, is that a larger portion of the story takes place in the real world. Here we get a bit more character development from Celeste’s parents, and we get to share in Gabe’s frustration with his paralysis. Had these portions not been here, Celeste and–especially Gabe–would have felt like much more shallow characters.
At times, I thought that the plot felt immensely simple; I continually had to remind myself of the demographic for which Sloane was writing. Regardless of simplicity, I never found myself getting bored while reading it and Sloane did an excellent job of moving the plot forward and lingering only long enough to elaborate on important ideas or moments.
In addition to Celeste, her parents, Gabe, and Lomasi, Sloane introduced several new characters, in particular, Yllid and Frith. For the sake of complete candidness, these two characters were my absolute favorite part of this story. Up until this point, I had trouble relating to Celeste, and her struggle. But her interactions with Yllid and Frith, so different than her interactions with Gabe, made her much more three-dimensional. In fact, the portions of the story where she was separated from Gabe, I felt, were a remarkable improvement (I think what I’m trying to say here is that I am not a fan of Gabe).
Kindness and Compassion are the Foils of War and Violence: The entire way of life of the Adalanians (Adalians? Adalanes?) is centered around their abilities. Readers who can understand the actions, intentions, and principles of others, and Feelers who can experience the thoughts, feelings, and ambitions of their peers make up a large portion of the Original Creatures. This benevolent people have existed for thousands of years and have adopted the waylaid and abandoned people who have stumbled upon their oasis with arms wide open. These people stand for goodness, selflessness, and compassion and are in direct opposition with the Outsiders, those who steal and enslave the OCs and exploit them for their abilities.
Love Is Never Easy Nor Simple: Whether it be familial, romantic, or platonic love, this story has it. Sloane makes it clear that love is not a weakness to be overcome or a vulnerability to be hidden, it is an obligation to be kept and a strength to be harnessed. She epitomizes the idea that to open oneself up and be vulnerable, even if you end up being hurt, is worth the risk, because love makes us stronger.
Sloane’s story is well-written and filled with beautiful imagery and fantastic places. To the cynical (like me) it appears naïve and a bit puerile, but in the mind of an idealistic youth, it could be a source of hope. Celeste is a character in which everyone can see at least a bit of themselves, which is a rare quality in a protagonist. If you’re looking for a quick read to satiate your fantasy/sci-fi hunger, this story will do that for you.