Honor Bound Book II
Independently Published (2020)
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (02/21)
“Honor Bound II” is the follow-up to author Athena Ryals’ debut novel. With the same action-packed punch of the first book, this new installment is certain to keep readers turning the pages.
Ryals’ growth as a writer is evident from the very beginning of “Honor Bound II.” The prose and dialogue are much stronger in here than in the first “Honor Bound” novel and make for an overall better reading experience. More specifically, the dialogue between the characters especially is less stilted and feels more natural. She makes excellent use of shorter, choppier sentences in the action scenes to convey the speed in which they take place; the reader feels completely in the moment as she takes them through numerous fights and chases. The improvement of the overall writing is one of the most noticeable aspects of the novel, and its clearly something the author worked very hard on.
“Honor Bound II,” much like the first novel, is highly-character driven. It follows the same cast of characters readers of “Honor Bound” will be familiar with. All of the characters are in the process of recovering from severe hands of the previous antagonists and Ryals takes the time to dig into what that recovery process could look like. She also makes her characters people that the audience can identify with. They’re very likeable and readers want to root for them. It’s easy for the audience to get attached to them; that makes it all the more difficult to read the terrible things that happen to them throughout the novel. Beyond being likeable, Ryals’ cast is also diverse. Reading about characters who use gender-inclusive pronouns and identify with various sexualities is something that isn’t present in enough action/thriller stories.
The plot centers around Gavin Stormbeck, the main antagonist in the first part of the series. He seeks out the group of protagonists after they escape him and leave him badly injured. He spent the entire first book torturing them both physically and emotionally; in fact, he reveled in it. “Honor Bound II” is meant to be his redemption arc. Ryals attempts to show Gavin recovering from his own traumas alongside the protagonists as he tries to befriend them. She’s taken up a difficult task, as the first novel firmly established Gavin as a monster. He crossed many lines as the antagonist and several of the protagonists break down merely at the sight of him. While he is given significantly more backstory here than in “Honor Bound,” it’s difficult for the audience to appreciate his redemption arc. They already had to read about the horrible acts he committed, and he was never set up to eventually become a sympathetic character.
The redemption arc itself is not handled badly; it actually has all of the necessary parts to be successful. The issue is that Gavin was originally introduced to readers as someone who was unspeakably evil, as someone who tortured innocent people for fun. It’s going to take more than him regretting his actions and feeling sorry for himself to get readers on his side when they were never meant to be.This story does make him far more interesting than the unmotivated, sadistic villain he was before, there’s a long way to go before he becomes a true protagonist.
Like the previous installment in the series, the setting is still the weakest aspect. It’s very vague and is never described beyond “up north” or “the eastern sector.” As so much of the plot is spent following the characters traveling or planning out future travels, the setting is something that needs to be further developed. Hopefully, the audience can look forward to seeing in that happen in future parts of this series.
Overall, “Honor Bound II” is a greatly improved follow-up to “Honor Bound.” The plot is more focused and the writing shows a tremendous amount of growth. It’s a promising series that deserves a powerful conclusion. With author Athena Ryals continued passion for the project, it’s sure to become something amazing.