The Boundless by Anna Bright proves that sometimes, the sequel is better than the original. Personally, I enjoyed her first novel, The Beholder, but I understood some readers’ complaints that the main character was too passive. In this installment, however, the main character has grown into a girl who takes hold of her destiny and is truly inspiring to watch.
At the end of the last book, Seneschal-elect Selah and the crew of the Beholder were fleeing for their lives after one of their members angered the king of Asgard by falling in love with his daughter and stealing her away. The captain of the Beholder, Captain Lang, has just revealed that his mission to find Selah was not his true mission, but instead, he was carrying weapons for rebel forces, transporting them to the Imperiya, where they can fight their brutal leader, the tsarytsya. Not only has he put her life in danger, but he has also betrayed her trust. Now Selah feels a whole slew of emotions—their ship is headed towards the Imperiya, a land of nightmares that makes her blood run cold, she’s been betrayed by the people she thought were her friends, and worst of all, she had to leave behind her true love, Torden, at Asgard.
Now headed to the Imperiya, the stakes for Selah are higher than ever. Her courtship must provide a cover for Lang to smuggle the weapons, and she tries to do a little detective work herself. However, she uncovers more than she bargains for… secrets lurk behind every corner in the Imperiya. Selah finds herself in too deep, and just when she thinks she’s about to escape the Imperiya safely, the tsarytsya sinks in her claws, arresting Selah and her friends, Cobie and Anya, and dragging them to her capitol city to be her slaves.
What most impressed me about this novel was Selah’s growth as a character. Instead of making a 180 from passive to active with no reason, her development is slower and also a natural reaction to what is happening around her. At the beginning of the first book, she’s been sheltered her entire life. All she’s ever done is work in the fields, and she is naturally a quiet, passive person who’s never been challenged by anyone. However, throughout the series, she endures challenge after challenge. Her stepmother sends away from home, she is lied to and betrayed, and she loses not one, but two loves. At one point, she tells her friends, “I never used to be angry, but now I’m angry all of the time.” Her experiences have shaped her, although she still manages to remain a good person deep down. Torden compliments her perfectly. Despite being a strong warrior, he never crushes her with the weight of this authority, but instead quietly supports her in whatever she does. My only true complaint about this book is that we did not get enough scenes of them together.
Another part of the novel that impressed me was how it focused on the relationship between Selah and her best friends, Cobie and Anya. Not enough YA supports strong, healthy female friendship. While Selah initially resents Anya, because stealing Anya away from Asgard took her from Torden in the first place, Anya’s tireless devotion eventually warms her heart and they become close. The three have a fantastic dynamic: Cobie is brusque and hardcore, always hiding a knife somewhere on her person, Anya is sweet, sunny, and beautiful, always flirting with the guards to get on their good side, and Selah is determined—determined to defeat the tsarytsya and get home to her father and to Torden. Each of them would die for the others without a thought, completely devoted to each other. Selah thinks to herself many times throughout the book that she wouldn’t survive slavery without her friends beside her.
Whether you loved everything about The Beholder or you had some reservations, you will love The Boundless. I know that I did, and I genuinely cannot wait to see what Anna Bright does next.