The sequel to the disappointing Mystic City, I decided I would give it a chance, but my hopes for Toxic Heart were low. But am I ever glad I decided to give it that chance!
Toxic Heart delivers everything we want and more, making up for the first novel completely. It offers a deeper look into life in the outskirts and the Depths, as Aria now lives among them. Her spoiled life is now behind her. While she can still be a little dim, she’s much better than she was in Mystic City. She understands the suffering that so many people in New York go through, and she really works to become one of them. While she’s caring about others, she also realizes that she deserves the same respect as others. She knows that it doesn’t matter if you were born in the Aeries, or in the Depths. It’s about who you are inside that counts. Not everyone in the Aeries is a bad person, many are just trying to survive, some simply don’t know that there’s so much suffering going on. And they shouldn’t be killed just because of the way they were raised.
Hunter, on the other hand, though the best character in the first novel, he was one of the worst in its sequel. Completely off the rails, he becomes an extremist. This obviously puts a toll on his relationship with Aria, because she just left her extremist family, life, and society for him, and now he’s acting the same way. And they rarely have time to spend together nowadays with a war going on within the city, which doesn’t help anything.
We meet many new mystics, and get a deeper exploration of their powers. We see what daily life is for the undrained mystic, and it’s not easy. Some hate Aria when arrives, simply because of her name, but others are much more welcoming, and she forms friendships here that will last a lifetime. Not only that, but her friendship with Turk blossoms and flourishes. Always looking out for her, he’s arguably the most seen and heard about character in the sequel, and he ends up becoming one of the best characters in the series.
In this war of extremist vs extremist, it’s hard to say which side is right, because truthfully? Neither one is. And Aria knows this. But can she stop it? Can she fix it? She has the support of both people above and below, but can she get the support of her family? Or more so, of Hunter?
I would give Toxic Heart a rating of 4, perhaps even 4.5 stars. So much better than the first, it’s hard to believe that so much could change in just one novel. Lawrence has definitely found his style and swagger in the sequel, and I would say to anyone struggling to get through Mystic City, be comforted with the knowledge that it gets so much better. You won’t even believe it.