Mortal Danger is the cheerful story of Edith, a girl torturously bullied to the brink of suicide by her classmates. Her life is saved by a handsome boy with a Faustian deal granting her the power to get revenge, in exchange for a later, undisclosed, repayment. With taglines like, “Revenge is a dish best served cold!” and the focus of the summary on Edith’s quest for retribution, one could be forgiven for tackling this book with the expectation that they’re reading a modern Carrie-style revenge fantasy.
It seems base to complain about a book for being responsibly complex on the issue of bullying. I bet it’s rare that people are annoyed with an author for creating a detailed, thoughtful narrative which was more evolved than Bad-Guy-Go-Boom. Or characters who are too relateable, so that each one gives you a tinge of pain when they go. The problem is, when you empathise with all the bad guys, there’s no enjoyment in their ultimate demise, which robs the book of its promising draw.
In fact, this novel spends so much time introducing its plethora of characters and complex mythology and world-building,that it’s almost unreadable. It was saved only by the creepy, gory atmosphere that is wonderfully crafted by Aguirre. But by the time any revenge happens, the author seems to have forgotten that revenge was the point of the story, and so has Edith. True, she has bigger issues to consider, but it left me wondering if someone switched out the plot halfway through. It flips from a delicious, cold-hearted revenge tale to a shock-horror novel with strong romantic elements, where the protagonist barely even considerers the deaths of the people who bullied her in the first place.
Needless to say, pacing is this story’s Achilles heel, one that can’t be saved by the richly crafted characters or the suspenseful storyline. The romance is lovingly built and rich, however, and readers will probably take to Kian and Edith’s love story more strongly than they do to the other aspects of the novel.
Ultimately, Mortal Danger simply couldn’t live up to its premise. Though well written and thoughtfully-crafted, it struggles to carry a burdensomely large web of interpersonal relationships and uninteresting narrative details, which bog down the otherwise wonderful parts of the story.
Clearly Aguirre spent so much time on these seemingly wasteful elements to setup a sequel, but it’s hard for me to imagine reading it after struggling just to finish this one.
Mortal Danger is available now from Feiwel & Friends.
Read an excerpt from the novel here on Tor.com