Back before our awesome redesign, I started almost every review with a comment on the cover of the book. Covers are important to me – they are, I’ll admit, 90% of the reason I often buy books and 90% of the reason I won’t buy one. I loved the cover of Prophecy of the Sisters, so when I saw that the sequel would be redesigned, I was a sad panda. But I really love the cover for Guardian of the Gate. It perfectly captures the power and intensity of these two sisters and how close they are and yet how cold things are as well. Gorgeous.

I actually bought Guardian of the Gate two weeks before the release date when the cover popped out at me during my (daily) trip to Barnes and Noble. Unfortunately, I had the bar exam to study for and so it sat on my bookcase for a month, taunting me. When exams were done and my brain had recuperated, I finally had a chance to read it and I could barely put it down.

Guardian picks up basically where Prophecy left off. Two twin sisters are now adversaries, and neither is in the role they expected or wanted. Alice, the sister who consorts with the blackest parts of her powers, is the guardian – the sister supposed to protect the gate from unleashing Samael. Lia, the sister who would rather die than see that happen, is the one with the power to unleash him.

My favorite thing about Michelle Zink’s books is that they’re first person present tense. This is a really smart move for a period piece, especially one with fantasy elements. It creates a much more intimate relationship between Lia and the reader, and the tension always seems to be simmering just below a boiling point. This worked well in Prophecy because the main plot was Lia unraveling a mystery. It works even better in Guardian because the increase in action leaves you feeling a tension so strong you might want to jump out of your skin.

The main addition to Guardian is Dimitri. When I first met him, I felt just like Lia – helplessly intrigued and totally suspicious. And at the end of the book, well, let’s just say I felt a lot like Lia did when it came to Dimitri. It’s hard to introduce a character when readers might be attached to a former love interest, as I was to James. But nothing for Lia is easy when it comes to her romantic entanglements, and no simple answers appear for her questions. It was one of the real strengths of this book, and a reason I kept turning the pages.

Finally getting to know more about the Otherworld was so much fun. It’s easy to make such things seem so sci-fi or fantasy oriented that the characters become secondary, but the way Michelle Zink has constructed this world leaves the reader with enough room for their imagination and that alone is enough to keep fantastical creatures and vicious hellhounds from overpowering the real focus of the novel: the struggle of two sisters.

Oh the two sisters. Alice and Lia are perfect counterpoints, and perfect twins as well. Alice isn’t someone you can easily hate. In the first novel, I felt sorry for her a fair bit of the time. Sure, she is refusing to uphold her duty and trying to bring the universe to its knees by obstinately ignoring the rules keeping it together…but, sigh. She is so perfectly drawn (and it helps that she’s drawn through her sister’s eyes) that you can’t help but want to shake some sense into her and then give her a good cuddle. Which makes me crazy considering she’s not only trying to end the world but also steal her sister’s (former?) boyfriend to boot, but whatever.

I could talk for days about how much I loved this book and its predecessor, but I think the easiest thing to do is to try and make sure as many people read it as possible. Outside of this (hopefully glowing?) review, I want to help make this possible with, yay, a giveaway! The only requirement for entry is that you live in either the United States or Canada. Just leave a comment on this entry between today and Monday, (August 23) and tell me what you loved about Prophecy of the Sisters and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Guardian of the Gate and an awesome Prophecy bookmark plus some really cool floral hairpins!

EDIT: OMG SQUEE! Michelle Zink, from henceforth onward to be known as She Who is So Amazing I Can’t Say Her Name Without Dancing, has generously offered to replace the lone copy of Guardian we were offering with a SIGNED copy of both Prophecy of the Sisters AND Guardian at the Gate! There are no words to express how excited we are about this and how grateful we are to She Who is So Amazing I Can’t Say Her Name Without Dancing.  Michelle Zink, you are a classy, classy lady and we love you to infinity and beyond.

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