Second in a trilogy
By A.E. Rought
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
Read my review of Broken
When I read BROKEN, I was curious about how it would become a series because it stood alone just fine. First, A.E. Rought makes Alex Franks the narrator instead of his girlfriend, Emma Jane Gentry, and let's his secrets drive the novel. Most important is his stalker ex-girlfriend, Hailey.
I really dislike the evil ex trope. TAINTED did nothing to change that. I still enjoyed other parts of the novel, but I wished there had been more characterization of Hailey. She's after either Alex as her boyfriend or half of his company, which just doesn't sound like obsessive love. Not to mention she's very smart and diabolical, rendering the plot a bit of cat versus mouse caught in a trap.
Now, what did work for me is that Rought takes TAINTED to very unexpected places. There's a huge event in the middle that I did not forsee at all, and one at the end that is brutal despite being foreshadowed. I also liked that TAINTED revealed more about Alex before he came to Shelley High after his father's experiments. There's still a sense of the characters being people who actually go to classes.
Some of the emotions and relationships in TAINTED disturbed me. Alex and Emma are into each other in an overwhelming manner, which I don't mind too much because it fits the Gothic romanticism of the story. I did mind some of Alex's thoughts about Bree, Emma's best friend, and how she needed a protector. The girls aren't delicate flowers, which Alex should know.
Overall, I preferred BROKEN to TAINTED. I didn't like Alex as much when I was inside his head, and the more inventive moments weren't enough to erase the taste of one of my least favorite tropes. TAINTED wasn't bad and I'm sure I'll finish the trilogy, but it just felt a little off to me.