Word Spelunking

Ghost Crown - J. Gabriel Gates, Charlene Keel 4.5/5 StarsI really enjoyed Dark Territory (The Tracks #1) and was very excited to delve into book two. And I’m happy to report that Ghost Crown is even better than the first book…After their battle with the powerful Oberon, the gangs of Middleburg hope life can get back to normal…but it doesn’t. When Topper Aimee shows up at the homecoming dance with Flatliner Raphael all hell breaks loose between the gangs. But before the fight can get out of hand, newly crowned homecoming queen, Maggie unleashes her own new powers. As tensions escalate between the Toppers and Flatliners, Topper real-estate moguls begin to buy up Flatliner residential buildings, evicting their tenants, in search of a priceless treasure. But they aren’t the only ones after this treasure: the dangerous and deadly Order of the Black Snake and Orias, a half-angel, half-human being, are also after the treasure. Raphael, Aimee, Nass, Zhai, Maggie and the rest of the Flatliners and Toppers find themselves battling against each other and each against dark forces.Authors J. Gabriel Gates and Charlene Keel have crafted an intensely thrilling and suspenseful sequel full of exciting supernatural elements, kick-butt martial arts, romantic entanglements and engaging characters. Ghost Crown is a longer read at almost 500 pages and it is filled to the brim with action and thrills, and the story moves quickly. There’s a lot going on in this book, a lot of individual character stories, but they all really flow together nicely and cohesively. Gates and Keel continue to lay out a very layered, dimensional story with really great world-building. The social awareness surrounding the intense rivalry between the rich Toppers and working class Flatliners that I liked so much in the first book is deftly developed even further in book two. The addition of powerful supernatural elements to this already tense rivalry creates an atmosphere that is, at times, deliciously dark and explosive. And the supernatural elements continue to be original and electric. From the mysterious Shen to the dark forces of the Order of the Snake, to time traveling and jumping to Aimee and Maggie’s individual growing abilities, these elements are captivating and unpredictable. I know nothing about kung-fu or martial arts, but the authors clearly do and this adds even more layers to the story and makes the fight scenes breathtaking and realistic.The story itself feels very hip and refreshing; especially the way the authors capture the essence of their teenage characters. I love how natural and authentic the dialogue sounds, never cheesy or contrived. And the characters themselves continue to be awesome: from brave and swoon-worthy Raphael to sweet, determined Aimee to funny, loyal Nass and sassy Dalton to thoughtful Zhai and delightful Kate…all my favorite characters from the first book are even more likable in book two. And there are new characters to get excited about as well! Orias, with his charm and internal struggle, is kind of hard to resist (for both Aimee and readers), even when his darkside shines. Maggie is one character that really surprised me in book two with how much I actually began to like her. Kudos to the authors for Maggie’s unexpected and enthralling character development!And of course every great story has to have a bit of romance! Well, this story has a lot of romance: first love, old love, enchanted love, convenient love, unrequited love…it’s all there and it’s all enticing. Raphael and Aimee’s sweet, true love is rudely interrupted by the charming and powerful Orias, and Nass and Dalton’s blossoming romance is halted by the appearance of Clarisse, Nass’ first love. But don’t worry, none of the romantic elements dominate the story or take away from the bigger picture.Like in book one, the last quarter of book two is breathlessly exciting and had me anxiously turning pages. There’s big showdown involving all the important Middleburg groups and the outcome is definitely unexpected. I cannot wait to see what happens next!MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Action, the supernatural, romance, mystery, thrills and chills...Ghost Crown has it all! A superb and a captivating sequel, this is one read (and series) that won't disappoint.

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