“the whole city
a book of
to be struck”
THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.
KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.
AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.
THE WAR HAS BEGUN.
THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.
Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.
Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?
TW: death (including death of a loved one), gore, suicide, violence (including gun violence), smoking
The first word that comes to mind thinking about Our Dark Duet is “devastating.” At the Columbus stop of her tour for The Near Witch, V mentioned that her editor wanted the ending to be just that: devastating, or else it wouldn’t pay off, wouldn’t work.
And I think she pulled it off.
Funny to say that, looking at the rating. 3.5 isn’t bad at all, but anything around a middling range rating is such a weird review to write. What it comes down to this time, though, is that the first half of the book was disappointing, and the second half amped up in time to require a road map for navigating the emotional damage it left in its wake. Devastating is an excellent word for it, truly.
But I’ll get that first half out of the way first. What it boils down to here is that ODD is set six months after the end of TSS, and August and Kate have gone their separate ways. That alone is what brought the first half down for me, because the thing I took the greatest joy in was their interactions, the way they were shaping themselves into something new around one another. I loved that they liked to tease and joke together, and that there wasn’t a romance between them. I love that they each saw what the other wanted, and they each wanted the other to stay safe in getting it. TSS was a hit for me because of these two, and seeing them fall into their old ways while apart made the first half drag.
The second half, though, while lacking a little in plot (I just found it a bit rushed and loose, crammed into the duology and fleshed out a little too late), returned to the character-focused style of the first book. We get to see more of Kate and August questioning their choices, and making new ones with consequences beyond just their own lives. The stakes raise higher and higher in the later part of ODD, and the losses are enormous. To be expected, honestly, since it’s a miracle that anyone survives in a city where ravenous monsters prowl every corner, and protection is bought rather than freely given.
And the tension of parallels returned, too! That was what most interested me. A new monster reared its head, opposite in so many ways to August and his Sunai brethren, terrifying as a result. It was almost everything Kate once teetered on the edge of trying to become, an equally unsettling prospect, and it was certainly a question given shape: who are the real monsters after all?
And in addition to the monster, we see August revisit the figures that have shaped him, as well as ones he wanted to avoid being shaped by. And we see Kate confront the darkest parts of herself given form. It’s a story about mirrors, in a sense, about reflection, and about how to deal with the parts of our reflections that disgust us or make us afraid.
On top of this wonderful return to questions of character, V did two more things that I really loved. For starters, there were snippets of verse, artfully placed within the novel. Turns out she has a poetry background, and she’s put it to work well here, giving beautiful form to the words of a monstrous thing, another glorious tension.
She’s also included queer characters in this book! Less than ten pages in, we learn a side character is queer (he has a boyfriend, and yes, they both survive), and later on, a prominent nonbinary character comes into play, taking their place as a relatively key secondary character whom I would ABSOLUTELY read more about, since they have some growing to do yet that would be fascinating to see. It’s a grim world, but it’s nice to see queer characters carving out their mark all the same. I certainly wish they were more central, sure, but it’s nice to have them (and to have them alive and with agency) all the same.
Overall, Our Dark Duet was fantastic. It truly was. It just took a little too long to get to that point, to reach the conclusion it was turning toward, and that caused me enough frustration to lower the rating, as did a couple of loose ends (I have my theories about where the monster originated, for one, but it’s not really even hinted at, which I think could have been a powerful hint, one that created closure). But on the whole, it was worth the read, and the heartache that it became. I’d absolutely read it again, even if the first half is slower than I’d like. I’d do it in a heartbeat.
So, have you read Our Dark Duet? Need to work out some emotional damages caused by the ending, or kind of lukewarm on it? Tell me what you think! And if you haven’t read it, think you’ll give it a go now? Let me know!