When Naya leaves her father’s ship on the day she is killed, he warns her to trust no one, because the city is full of liars. But at the time, she has no idea how true those words are, and that one of the biggest liars may be her own father. Twice Dead starts out at a fast pace, with Naya being murdered within several pages, and then slows down to a crawl as she struggles to accept her new reality as an unwilling member of the wraith community. She has been taught her whole life that such beings are monsters, worthy of scorn and fear. Yet her own government’s ambassador has ordered her turned into a wraith, to use her as a spy and operative, even though this will surely result in the damning of her soul. Despite the slow unfolding of events through the middle of the book, I found it engaging and thought provoking, due to Naya’s inner battles to reconcile the world she sees with the world she was taught to see.
Naya’s quest for self acceptance stems from the fact that her people (the Talmirans) view wraiths as souls trapped on earth, and more specifically as evil abominations. Meanwhile, the Ceramoran necromancer’s believe that only souls with unfinished business can be successfully resurrected. Therefore, rather than going against the will of the Creator, as the Talmirans see it, the necromancers believe they are providing a valuable service. While I’m not sure if it is what the author intended, Naya’s predicament had me pondering on religious rifts throughout history, including the modern day suspicion of Muslims in some segments of American society. As Naya begins to understand, religious views are often very similar, varying in certain historical details and views on mortality more so than morality. She begins to realize that the Talmirans and Ceramorans have more in common than they might want to admit, and that the question of right and wrong when it comes to war, and the state of the soul, is far more complicated than she had been led to believe.
Since this is a YA book, part of her revelation involves falling in love with the very likable Corten (I’ll take this as the opportunity to say that Naya is not at all likeable until about 60% through the story…don’t give up on her!). Corten is kind for the sake of being kind, and it is his innate goodness that makes Naya realize that wraiths can’t all be monsters. More conflicted is Naya’s relationship with Lucia, the necromancer who sang her soul back from death. At first, Naya loathes her. But then, when she sees Lucia heal patients for free, and tend to the families of the recently deceased, she is again forced to question her beliefs. Woven through this story of human relationships, is a growing tension of political intrigue, as Naya struggles to understand why the Talmiran ambassador had her turned into a wraith, and whether her unquestioning loyalty to her people is the correct path.
The finals chapters of Twice Dead are as fast paced and frantic as the opening sequence, and possess a rather soul crushing climax. It is this climax, centering around the fate of a soul that is twice dead, that promises to lead Naya deeper into the world of the necromancers in future installments of this series. I’m waiting with bated breath!