The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

This was a book I’d been looking forward to reading for a while. After my near total abstention from fantasy last year, as well as my recent read-through of the more serious The Bird and the Nightingale, I was ready for a fluffier fantasy read, which The Great Pursuit promised to be. Come to find out when I picked the book up that this series is not a trilogy, but a duology! I just about could have kissed the cover. God knows I’ve started enough series, never to continue on.

But somehow this sequel to The Great Hunt didn’t catch me nearly as much as its predecessor. In the first book, we’re introduced to the MC, Aerity. She’s a teenage princess who loves aerial silks. (Hence the name choice, I’m sure.) All this might seem a bit random, and it is, but her hobby is a unique, defining characteristic, and—spoilers directly ahead—she’s able to use her acrobatic abilities in the first book’s climax in a combat situation. It was a memorable scene that made me want to dive right into the next book.

Yet Pursuit seems devoid of a lot of that unique charm. I don’t think there’s one scene in the second book where this side of Aerity is allowed to shine once more; I’d bet it would be easy for many readers who read the first book a while ago to forget entirely about this aspect of her character. I guess it’s a consequence of having to focus the plot on the brewing political tensions; this book simply feels more generic than the first in the series.

All this coupled with a world that feels overly small. Characters traverse vast distances to different kingdoms and climes, but their journeys feel like they take place within two days max. In the final battle scene, armies feel like they’re made up of fifty people. A chase scene in a maze of tunnels was a great moment, but that’s a confined scene by necessity of the fact that the characters are in tunnels. Once the characters emerge back out into the open, we’re back to feeling like this “war” is just a faction vs. faction small-scale brawl.

So I may be in the minority here since the Goodreads reviews speak to more people enjoying the second book than the first, but I really liked The Great Hunt much more than The Great Pursuit. I hesitate to advocate for just reading the first one, since that could maybe prove unsatisfying, but… Yeah. Just read the first one.

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