Armistice: Book 2 in the Amberlough Dossier by Lara Elena Donnelly

In ArmisticeBook 2 in the Amberlough Dossier, we return to Lara Elena Donnelly’s world of espionage, romance, and politics. When I reviewed the first book in the series, I had a hard time discerning which genre best fit the story. Was Donnelly’s work a stylish spy thriller, or perhaps fantasy inspired by the roaring 20s? Author Holly Black summarized Amberlough as “James Bond by way of Oscar Wilde.” Given the story’s brilliant wit and sleek, colorful touches, this condensed synopsis certainly seems to be an apt one. Regardless of its genre, the series is incredibly unique and features a lush, dazzling world with a darker underbelly, one that eloquently mirrors our own.

When I read Amberlough, I fell in love with the compelling characters and sparkling prose. Donnelly presented a fictional city steeped in political intrigue—a feat she made look effortless—without ever diminishing the characters or losing the story’s inherent flair. I had never read a novel quite like Amberlough before, and so I went into Armistice with exceedingly high expectations.

I wasn’t immediately hooked by this installment: the story was slow to start, and I found myself a little lost during the first few chapters. A larger cast of characters plus extensive set-up contributed to the pacing issues. At times, the novel seemed to lack action scenes that could have lightened denser sections. Because of this, I was somewhat disappointed after coming down from the high of Amberlough.

However, I became invested once the story gained speed, cranked up the tension, and turned into a riveting, nail-biting ride. There were a number of unexpected twists and turns, and most of them were fraught with emotional resonance for the characters (not to mention the reader). Two of my favorite examples revolve around reunions between war-torn characters and the reveal of unexpected alliances that developed in a time of near-global unrest.

The story resumes after a time skip and establishes three storylines that eventually converge. They follow two veteran cast members—Aristide Makricosta and Cordelia Lehane—and newcomer Lillian DePaul. Aristide and Cordelia’s character developments build nicely in this second installment. But while Cordelia’s transformation into a revolutionary was captivating, I became particularly invested in Aristide’s story and his inability to move past the events of Amberlough. I felt that Aristide and Lillian formedthe beating heart of the story. 

Family drama and star-crossed romance largely fuel Lillian’s storyline, which was written with excellent care, sensitivity, and tension. Lillian’s relationship with Jinadh might be one of the best-written pairings of the last decade. In the past, they had to sacrifice their relationship with one another for the sake of their countries, ambitions, and families. They have excellent chemistry, allowing their contrasting personalities to shine. I found myself wanting to see more and more of them with the turn of each page.   

The three main storylines converge when, for differing reasons, the key players reunite in a tropical country. Politics and secret, interconnected alliances lead these characters into a tangled snare of dangerous situations. Within each storyline, you’ll find gorgeous prose and delightfully penned settings. Lurking beneath are the grittier, darker aspects of war and, most importantly, the deadly cost of revolution. In their own way, each protagonist rallies against a fascist regime and desperately attempts to survive in the new world order. 

Although Armistice has a few pacing issues, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel overall and look forward to the next installment in this truly captivating series. 

Alyssa Jordan

Alyssa Jordan is a freelance writer in Southern California. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chapman University in 2013. Currently, she is an Associate Editor at the 1888 Center and a Junior Editor for F(r)iction. Her work has appeared in publications like Every Day FictionReflex Fiction100 Word Story, and the Bath Flash Fiction anthology (2017).