I backed The Beautiful Decay on Kickstarter, and read it after it was released to backers. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but that’s okay because it was only released to bookstores yesterday. \o/
I love this book; one of the rare cases where I enjoyed a sequel even more than the first book. The Beautiful Decay is the second full-length Tombtown book. I’ve read all the Tombtown stories, and my recommended reading order is:
1) Books & Bone
2) Familiar & Flame
3) The Beautiful Decay
“Making Friends”: Delightful, can be read at any point, doesn’t connect directly to any of the other stories. “Tinker & Terror”: Oddly compelling protagonist; doesn’t really connect to the other books but I recommend reading it after Books & Bone.
The Tombtown stories revolve around necromancers and their friends, both living and undead, and the vast underground warren of interconnected catacombs where they’ve made their home. The necromancers are, for the most part, more “misunderstood” than “evil”, although some of them lean into tropes like “power-hungry” and “selfish” and there’s a great deal of creepy.
Some things I loved about The Beautiful Decay in particular:
The main characters were in their late teens in Books & Bone, and are in their mid-20s in The Beautiful Decay. In the intervening years, the characters have changed dramatically, and in ways that make sense and are consistent with their experiences and basic natures. It’s fascinating to see who they’ve turned into, and how events have shaped them, and what parts of them haven’t changed. In the first book, for example, Ree and Usther are not-quite-friends: Usher doesn’t understand how friendship works and Ree can’t trust Usther. By The Beautiful Decay, they have realized that they want to be friends but they’re still Very Bad At Friending. It’s at once understandable, entertaining, and heart-breaking. The transformation in Smythe is the most remarkable, though.
Both Ree and Usher are viewpoint characters in The Beautiful Decay and I loved seeing the differences in their perspectives -- one of my favorite things is seeing the same characters through different eyes.
The plot is well-paced and focused around a single central conflict with many ramifications.
The new major characters -- two paladins -- are delightful, and I love how V establishes and resolves the necromancer-vs-paladin tension without casting either side as The Bad Guys. Also, Persephone. My heart. ♥
To sum up: wonderful story, highly recommend, easily a 9.