What do you do when you learn your entire childhood was a lie?
Reeling from the truths uncovered while searching for her sister in Italy, Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies. The only way to stop being a pawn in their game is to remove herself from the board. But before she can leave her parents' crimes behind her, tragedy strikes. No one is safe, not while Department D still exists.
Now, with help from her friends, Anastasia embarks on a dangerous plan to bring down an entire criminal empire. From a fire-filled festival in England to a lavish wedding in Rio de Janeiro, Anastasia is determined to confront the enemies who want to destroy her family. But even Marcus, the handsome bad boy who's been there for her at every step, is connected to the deadly spy network. And the more she learns about Department D, the more she realizes the true danger might be coming from someone closer than she expects…
The Anastasia Phoenix series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 Proof of Lies
Book #2 Lies That Bind
Book #3 End of the Lie
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I expected the fire, but not the noise.
The constant irregular popping of firecrackers boomed in every direction, reverberating off the aging stones and mixing with the rattling drums and honking tubas. Drunks had to shout to be heard, their slurred cheers freezing in visible puffs warmed only by the countless torches. Marchers filled the street, each holding a flaming stick that when too sizzling to hold was simply dropped and abandoned at their feet. There were unattended torches littering the cobblestones, which led me to believe the UK was in serious need of a public service announcement on the value of not playing with matches. I'd already burned the rubber of one sneaker, but at least that foot was warm. Even with long johns under my jeans and wheelbarrows full of fire rolling past, my teeth were chattering and my nose was running.
I guess this is one way to celebrate a holiday.
Not that we were in England for fun. These days, I strove for ordinary. I actually dreamt I was walking through the halls of Brookline Academy the other night, laughing with Tyson and Regina, my former best friends. We were talking about going to karate then binge watching a new TV show. Honestly, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or a memory. It was so normal. But when I woke up, the dark of night still cloaking my room, there were tears trailing down my cheeks as if my subconscious had just lowered the old me into the Earth. I couldn't fall back asleep, sniffling and wiping at my eyes as I realized Tyson and Regina were probably visiting colleges right now; they were sending out applications and writing essays about how tutoring saved their lives. Their entire worlds were going on without me, while I stayed immersed in a toxic realm my parents created. It was a life I didn't want.
But I also couldn't ignore it. Marcus's brother was in danger. At least, we thought he was in danger. That was why we were at this festival, searching for Antonio. I owed Marcus for helping me find my sister in Venice, but more than that, I wanted to help him. I needed to help him. He was sort of my boyfriend (we never actually talked about it). So officially, he was more like my adventure junkie companion, or the guy who saved my life, or a fellow Dresden Kid whose family might be as twisted as my own. He was also the reason I stayed entangled in this world of spies and Department D and didn't run away with Keira. But once Antonio was found safe (he had to be safe), Keira and I had a decision to make. Only I wasn't sure I was ready to admit what that decision might need to be.
I breathed into my wool scarf, warming my face as we cut through the dense crowds clogging High Street, fast food wrappers crunching under my sneakers. Surprisingly, even across the pond, parade-goers still relied on hamburgers and pizza to absorb the fountain of alcohol pouring down their throats. The air smelled almost as strongly of ale as it did of smoke, and oddly pubs were open, but their windows were boarded shut. In fact, every storefront within walking distance of the main parade route had nailed plywood to its windows — not to protect from fire, given that cheap wood made for excellent kindling, but to protect from the attendees. There were drunks swaying atop the iconic red phone booths, hanging out of windows, and hovering in doorways, all with pints dripping down their frozen hands.
I tightened my grip on Marcus's black leather jacket.
"Don't worry. I won't lose you," he said, wrapping his hand on top of my mine and squeezing it tight as he pulled me through the hordes of people glowing in a red fiery light that flickered as if the parade were being held on Mars, not in England. But what else could you expect on Bonfire Night? Every November fifth, towns throughout the United Kingdom celebrated the demise of one of the country's most infamous villains — Guy Fawkes.
Being an American, this name, and holiday, meant absolutely nothing to me. I imagined it would be like celebrating the Fourth of July in Germany or Cinco de Mayo in Boston. Wait, we do celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Boston. I had a picture of my sister, Keira, with Craig Bernard and Luis Basso at a pub to prove it — that was a week before the two criminal spies kidnapped her from our home. Still, I had never heard of Guy Fawkes until Charlotte, my best friend and complete tech genius, explained the unusual celebration as I booked my train ticket.
Turns out, Guy tried to blow up Parliament more than four hundred years ago, but he sucked at his job. He got caught, in the bowels of the historic seat of government, holding a match about to light enough barrelfuls of gunpowder that it would have been seen from the New World. He was branded a terrorist and mutilated in the town square. (It was standard procedure back then, though Guy somehow managed to hang himself before they got to the really gory bits.) Afterward, the country began to annually mark the day of his screwup with open flames that screamed, "Yay! We saved Parliament! Long live the King!"
Only hindsight had a way of shedding new bonfire light on the situation.
Today, Guy has been twisted into a bit of a folk hero, at least to hackers like Charlotte. That creepy mask with the curled mustache that's the face of the hacktivist group Anonymous? That's Guy. He's the poster child for anarchy — Fight the power! And all that. Because ultimately, Guy's stance against the British government's treatment of Catholics has been given validity. Priests were being killed, Catholics were being forced into hiding, and senseless laws were being passed. There were now as many people who viewed Guy as a freedom fighter as there were those who viewed him as a terrorist.
"I think that's the inn." Marcus pointed to a tiny ceramic sign adhered to the rounded gray bricks of a home so adorably British it deserved its own postcard. Windows, glowing with reflected torchlight, were rung with red bricks that contrasted with the gray stones that made up the rest of the structure. There was a burnt orange shingle roof with dormer windows, bushes still blooming with pastel flowers from an unusually warm October, and trees dripping overhead with emerald and golden leaves. In the background, high above the parade, stood an imposing castle. Because what self-respecting European town didn't have a castle? They're like McDonald's restaurants in the United States — old, plentiful, and often overlooked.
Honestly, the bed and breakfast seemed much more fitting for a honeymoon than a single guy, alone, running for his life. Unless none of that were true.
Not long after we rescued Keira from Department D in Italy, Antonio stopped returning Marcus's phone calls. Their parents hadn't seen or heard from him in weeks, nor had he shown up to work — for his job at the Dresden Chemical Corporation. Antonio worked in sales for the engineering firm my parents created and used as a cover for their espionage underbelly, Department D. We didn't know if Antonio was aware of his link to a criminal organization that specialized in "fake news," but we worried that even if he were oblivious, he might be targeted by those lethal spies because of Marcus's assistance in saving my sister.
Allen Cross, my parents' old friend and our lone Dresden ally, even called Antonio to warn him of the danger, but he got his voicemail. So it was possible Antonio got the message and took off in time, or it was possible the voicemail was too late and Marcus's brother was shackled to a sink somewhere just like my sister had been. Then there was the third possibility that I tried not to say aloud (too much) — maybe Antonio was a bad guy working for the enemy.
I knew Marcus wasn't considering this possibility, and I couldn't push the idea, not after he traveled with me from Boston to Italy when we were practically strangers. He never told me to give up on my sister, and he refused to leave my side even when Luis Basso pointed a gun at our heads in Cortona. In fact, Marcus rode a motorcycle down that mountain in Tuscany and saved our lives. I couldn't abandon him now, and I couldn't question his faith in his brother — even if every step I took in this quaint English village raised my anxiety level to that of a gazelle galloping past a lion's den.
There was something too convenient about this lead. After weeks with no activity on Antonio's credit cards, bank accounts, and passports, Charlotte suddenly uncovered a registration for a B&B at the Guy Fawkes festival in Lewes, England — only an hour and a half from where we were staying in London. And it was in Antonio's real name. This didn't sound like a guy hiding from super spies. We all debated the lead being a setup — it was practically wrapped in caution tape — but in the end, Marcus was willing to walk into the trap gagged and blindfolded if it meant saving his sibling. I knew how that felt, and I couldn't let him take that walk alone.
I squeezed past a young couple with a toddler, all three dressed in black and white striped shirts and red neckerchiefs to show the family's allegiance to one of the bonfire clubs. Unlike the giant cartoon balloons and celebrity performances that filled American parades, this celebration consisted of locals dressed in costumes that ranged from early Michael Jackson chic to inexplicably offensive. First, there was a group that looked like convicts who'd escaped from a nineteenth-century prison, hence the black and white striped shirts and cherry knit hats. Then there was a troop wearing what could only be described as train conductor uniforms bedazzled for a moonwalk; they were only missing a sequin glove. There were Victorian women in silk hoop skirts and bonnets. There was a guy dressed like Captain Hook.
Then groups shifted toward political incorrectness, like that troop dressed as American Indians in flowing feathered headdresses with war paint on their cheeks. There was a club holding burning crosses, and another hoisting antiCatholic "No Popery" signs. But all of that paled in comparison to the spectacle before me now.
I yanked Marcus to a halt and gawked at the famously pale British men and women sporting a Zulu African theme with their faces painted completely black. My jaw fell, the taste of smoke souring my tongue. This would cause a riot in America. There were actual babies in blackface being pushed in strollers and a guy pulling a long string of firecrackers that popped like gunshots as they walked. My wide eyes darted around, expecting to see another horrified expression, only I noticed all of the faces in the crowd were white. And not just Caucasian, they were British. I hadn't heard another American voice since I'd arrived, let alone any other accents.
"What is it?" Marcus asked, noticing the tight wrinkles on my forehead.
"They're in blackface." Isn't that obvious?
"Oh." He cringed at the scene. "Things are a little different in Europe."
"Clearly." My face continued to twist as I imagined how Tyson would feel if he saw this. It was hard enough being black in New England; I couldn't imagine what he would feel like here.
Just then a giant papier-mâché float of the American president, wearing a sombrero and riding a cactus, rolled toward us, presumably a statement against our immigration policies that would be burned in effigy at midnight. Tonight there would be dozens of sky-high fires lit throughout the tiny village, which consisted of narrow streets lined with Tudor buildings, constructed hundreds of years ago, mostly of wood, surrounded by hordes of people, many of them drunk. And there wasn't a police officer or fire truck in sight.
"This parade has taken an odd turn," I said.
"If you think this is bad, you should see Las Fallas de Valencia. Puts this little fiesta to shame."
"So Spaniards light things on fire, too?"
"Bigger than this," he said, proudly adjusting his posture. "Maybe I'll take you someday."
Then he leaned toward me, his dimples aimed like a weapon. There was smoke and literal fire encircling us, firecrackers sizzling in every direction, and hordes of bodies shoving us together. All I could see was his smile; I didn't get to enjoy it often enough. We met the day before my sister disappeared from a claw-foot tub of blood, then we fought side by side in Italy, and even when I did get Keira back, I was confronted with the fact that my parents might be alive, my dad might not really be my dad, and Marcus's brother might be in mortal danger. It was a rather extreme way to start a relationship.
Marcus reached for my waist, gently resting his hands and sending a warm tingle through my body. "Thank you for coming here, for helping me."
"Dresden Kids stick together." I repeated his infamous line. Though I wasn't the only Dresden Kid who wanted to help. Keira fought to join us. She wanted to somehow repay everyone for what they sacrificed to find her, and while I understood, I'd begged her to stay with Charlotte and Julian. I'd already lost her once, and I'd sunk into a funk so deep it left me bedridden and nearly institutionalized by Charlotte's parents.
So while I was the little sister in our tiny family, and while I realized she took care of me and protected me from social services for years, I felt our power dynamic shifted the moment I found her in Venice. It was now my job to protect us, and I needed her safe in London.
"Once we find Antonio, it'll be okay. We'll all be okay," Marcus said, his voice so monotone it was clear he didn't believe his words. Keira and I were living under assumed names. Marcus and I were taking online classes, because high school was a dream sequence we couldn't actually live out. Charlotte was hacking databases against a criminal empire. And Julian was funding the entire anarchist operation. We were all so far from okay that normal was a fantasy that kept me up at night.
"Antonio is fine," I assured him, my voice as flat as his.
He nodded, trying to force himself to believe. Then he pressed his forehead to mine and sighed, his whole weight leaning into me. I closed my eyes, my cheekbones feeling the flutter of his hair. He needed a trim. We all did. We didn't exactly have time for stuff like that anymore.
"I have to find him," he whispered.
He exhaled against me, the heat of his breath warming my chapped, red cheeks.
"This has to end eventually, no?"
We both knew there was no answer to that question, and he really wasn't looking for one. He needed something else right now. So I shifted my lips toward his, barely a flutter, and we kissed in a way so sad and desperate that the sensation was instantly familiar — only now I was on the other side. Marcus moved his fingers to my hair, and I could feel him trying to forget the world, forget his fears, forget where he was. I knew what he wanted. I had been there myself not too long ago.
I grabbed at his neck and pressed hard against his mouth, moving my tongue until I felt a change within him, the strike of a match. He pushed me against the boarded-up window of a village shop, the splintered raw wood sticking to the wool of my coat as his mouth moved with a new excitement. I moaned slightly, and he slid his hand behind my head, gripping my hair, protecting my scalp from the hard wood, and pulling me closer.
Around us, crowds continued to push past, and I could feel torches glowing brighter, hotter, closer.
I cracked open my eyes and was startled by a man standing inches away, a fiery stick in his hand and a creepy grin on his bearded face. I jolted, pushing Marcus — visions of Department D, deadly spies, and endless threats of setups flashed in my head. Panic spread across Marcus's flushed face as he noticed my reaction.
Then he turned toward the stranger.
Only then did the man move the torch closer, illuminating his face.
That was when I recognized his familiar features — the dark hair, the double dimples, and the near-black eyes that ran in their bloodline.
The beer was warm. Not that I was a beer connoisseur, but given that this was my first taste of the bitter alcoholic refreshment, I would have at least preferred it as cool as the Rockies. Don't tell me that Skittles don't taste like a rainbow, either.
I sat in an English pub at a sticky wooden table that reminded me of the bar Charlotte and I went to in Boston, when we were first searching for my sister. Lately, we'd been searching for Antonio. Now, here he sat, right in front of us. Smiling.
"I'm so glad you're okay." Marcus looked at his brother like an exhausted dad whose kid walked in three hours past curfew, his face showing a mixture of relief and annoyance. "Where have you been?"
Excerpted from "Lies that Bind"
Copyright © 2018 Diana Rodriguez Wallach.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lies That Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach Series: Anastasia Phoenix Book #2 Publisher: Entangled Teen Publishing, LLC Publish Date: March 6, 2018 Pages: 322 Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen Publishing, LLC for the ebook ARC of Lies that Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach. What do you do when you learn your entire childhood was a lie? Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies when she uncovers truths while searching for her sister in Italy. Before she can leave her parent’s crimes behind her, tragedy strikes. As long as Department D exists, no one is safe. Anastasia embarks on a dangerous plan to bring down the entire criminal empire. She is determined to confront the enemies who want to destroy her family. Her handsome boyfriend, Marcus is even connected to the deadly spy network, even though he has been with her every step. The more she learns about Department D, the more she realizes true danger might be coming from someone closer than she expects… I give this book a rating of 5 stars. It kept me wanting to read right from the beginning. It was a fast paced novel full of adventure and drama. I found the characters were well developed. I really enjoy Diana’s writing and I definitely am looking to read more of her novels. I did read the first book of the Anastasia Phoenix series, Proof of Lies. I highly recommend this book and series.
as a sequel to proof of lies, lies that bind does not disappoint. picking up the story right about where we left off, the second book opens with anastasia and her friends in london trying to find ways to escape and evade department d, while also searching for other dresden kids and finding a way to take department d down. there's plenty of suspense, but also some romance and teen angst between marcus and anastasia. because not as much world-building is required, this second book moves at a steady pace. and without giving too much away the twists and turns continue to grow, setting the stage for an epic book three to conclude the series. if you enjoyed book 1, then book 2 is a must-read. and if you enjoyed maggie hall's conspiracy of us series, this series is right up your alley. **lies that bind will publish on march 6, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled teen) in exchange for my honest review.
"You do stupid things for family, like chase after assassins." Thank you to Entangled Teen and Netgalley for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. Last year I read PROOF OF LIES and absolutely loved it! It is one of my favorite undercover mystery adventure type books I've read. Lies That Binds starts pretty soon after Proof of Lies ended. Anastasia and the group have been in several different European cities since we last saw them, and now they are in England looking for Marcus brother who is missing now as well. After that happens we get to see Charlotte, Julian, and Keira and how the group has changed slightly since we last saw them and has continued working on taking down the organization that had ruined all of their lives in some way. The dynamic in this book is a little different because Anastasia isn't having to search for Keira and is able to instead focus on the bigger picture along with everyone else working on the same thing. There were also some reality checks that didn't happen in the first one and were now having to be addressed before they created a rift in the group. "At the end of the day, Keira was right - none of us were spies equipped to deal with this." Overall I really loved this story even more than the first one. We get to know the characters so much more and we get to see their motives for why they are trying to take down the organization. This one had so many twists and turns that I was not expecting, and surprised me so many times. A few new characters were added in as well which was nice to see, and I liked learning there stories as well. "These are spies, Anastasia, assassins. They're playing us. Playing you." The heartbreaks, the betrayal, and the surprises that happened throughout this whole book were amazing and had me constantly needing to find more time to read it. I felt a lot of the same feelings that Anastasia did as well when it came to certain people and trusting them. I'm also so proud of her for not letting people change her view on things and stuck to her gut just like she did in the first book. "Bad things happen, and they're not your fault. You can't control everyone." This book didn't have middle book syndrome and held its own and I actually liked it a little more than the first one. I cannot wait for the final in this book and I am so sad we have to wait a full year for it. "None of this is about you, Anastasia. You or Kiera. They get that. And we will bring them down."
NOTE: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinion. Lies that Bind is the sequel to Proof of Lies in the Anastasia Phoenix series. I read the first book a while back and really enjoyed it, so I was ecstatic when the publisher reached out and offered to send an ARC of this book ass well. However, for me, this book suffered from second book blues and I ultimately ended up DNFing it. This book starts off where the previous on leaves off. Not a lot of time has elapsed between the two, so it was easy to keep track of what had happened in between books and where the characters are now. There were also plenty of reminders about what had happened in book one, so I didn't need to struggle to remember what had happened previously, which I found to be a bonus. However, I didn't connect to this story as I had to the first book. There was no hook that really kept me interested and I often found myself putting the book down and doing something else. It felt extremely repetitive in the way in which the characters were acting and what they were saying and it really put me off wanting to read it because it felt like points kept being rehashed where they didn't need to be. Another issue I had with this book was that the plot was slow. I got up to about 25% of the way though and nothing had really happened. The plot itself was slow and it just appeared to be a lot of back and fourth arguments about what they were going to do next. It didn't seem to be going anywhere and it failed to keep me only toes in the way in which book one did. I also didn't connect with Anastasia like I did in book 1. She came across as relatively whiny and it really felt like she had taken a step backward in the character development department. I struggled to care about what was going to happen to her in the long run, which impacted how I connected to the story as a whole. The way in which she started to call all the decisions and didn't even stop to consider what anyone else had to say irritated me. Anthony was also a dislikable character to me. His whole personality grated only nerves and I really just wanted to punch him every time he spoke. I struggled to even trust him and I didn't really care about seeing things from his perspective because of the way in which he treated other characters. All in all, I was disappointed with this book. It didn't hold the same spark that hame hooked in book one and the plot and character development was sorely lacking. I gave this book 1/5 stars.
Rating: 3.5 stars After reading Proof of Lies and enjoying it, I was looking forward to Lies that Bind. Although this one ups the stakes, I didn’t find this one as engaging as the first. I had absolutely loved the dynamics between the characters but they just wasn’t the same in this installment. However, the action was just as entertaining. Plus I enjoyed getting to find out more about Department D and the work it had done. After the events that transpired in Proof Of Lies, Anastasia Phoenix is more than ready to leave the world of spies behind her. Unfortunately, after her best friend is murdered and his killer leaves a message for her, Anastasia is drawn back into that shadowy world. Unsure of who to trust, Anastasia and her friends being gathering the other Dresden kids in the hopes of accumulating enough evidence to take the organization down once and for all. If the first book was Anastasia discovering who her family is, this book was about her learning how to trust them. While this one was full of non-stop action, there were occasionally quieter moments where the interpersonal dynamics shone through. However, I felt as if some of the plot points didn’t have enough depth. In particular, I wish that the plan to collect the Dresden kids had been discussed and expanded on. It felt a bit aimless, particularly since none of them ended up playing much of a role in the story. Nevertheless, the plot in general was intriguing enough for me to keep reading. One of my favorite aspects of the first book was the characters and their relationships. Unfortunately, most of those relationships changed significantly in this book. There was a lot of drama and angst. Additionally, I struggled to understand the motivation of each character. I also didn’t like the romance for most of the book. However, I did appreciate the emotional journey that Anastasia went through in this book though. I loved how Wallach explored the idea of the family you’re born with versus the one you choose for yourself. Lies That Bind was such a quick, intriguing, light read full of globetrotting action that was a lot darker than Proof of Lies. Plus, I liked how Anastasia grew as a character in this installment. I would recommend this series to fans of YA spy thrillers. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I was lucky enough to have a copy of this to read straight after finishing the first book in this enthralling series, ‘Proof of Lies‘ – I’m so glad because I really wanted to know what happened next and I certainly wasn’t disappointed by this sequel! This is definitely a series where I suggest you read the stories in sequence, though the author does a great job of filling in some of the back information to make it easy for new to the series readers to follow what is happening. Anastasia, her sister and the growing group working to bring down Department D are off travelling the world again striving to thwart those determined to stop them. The characters are well developed, the plot a tangled web of lies and deception that is slowly being rewoven to share the true picture with readers . . . . or is it? Nothing is certain in this superb story. Who are the double dealing enemy working to stop Anastasia and Keira from bringing down Department D? Where are there parents – are they really alive? There are so many questions the sisters and their friends are seeking the answers to! Can they really trust everyone around them? What about Marcus and Antonio – not to mention their parents? Oh boy, does this keep you on the edge of your seat! This is another action packed adventure, a spy thriller with plenty of drama, even more lies and deadly danger, a real page-turner that I have absolutely no hesitation in highly recommending you get a copy to read! I requested and received a copy of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review after choosing to read it.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Lies That Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach. Anastasia is still reeling from the hunt for her sister Keira and the whole orphan and kidnapping ordeals when she jumps right back into the action with her cohorts and a few new helpers. She’s struggling with being unable to truly trust anyone or their opinions or ideas and things within the group become frustrating and tense. The new experiences prove that Anastasia has a right to be untrusting as the intrigue piles up all around her! Twists, turns and shocks keep the story going as relationships are in turmoil and the floor seems to fall out from underneath everyone that’s part of the Dresden rebellion. Mystery turned spy novel turned double agent story rates 5 stars for the pure unpredictability! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration.
I must admit that, even if I liked the story, I didn’t love it like I did Proof of Lies. Sure, there is mystery, romance, lies, betrayal and lots of action, but it couldn’t capture me fully. There was nothing wrong with the book, and you should absolutely read it. Maybe my expectation just were too high. I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing!
"Lies That Bind" is a great sequel in the Anastasia Phoenix series. While the first book had a lot of character building plus a big pace slow-down in the middle, this one has a smooth pace that keeps you easily reading throughout the book. Although the story isn't complete, this sequel didn't feel like an in-between book, but rather, told its own story. Here, Anastasia is staying in London with her crew- including her romantic interest Marcus. Determined to take down Department D, they embark on a journey to find other "Dresden kids"- kids who have been wronged by Department D, with the goal of collecting enough evidence to turn over to the CIA and shut it down for good. Although it helps to have read the first book to really understand the characters, this book is set up well to be read a while after the first- everything from the first book is recapped well (not in too much detail, but just enough to remind you of what happened in the first). I really appreciated that, as it's not always easy to return to a series after some time. While this one maintains the teen-spy feel, it almost begins to feel more like a police procedural. Nothing comes out that is too surprising, but we follow the clues they gather to the end of the book. The romance really builds well in this book, and although there is some teenager drama, it seems more natural here. The relationships are well done (not only between romantic interests, but between siblings, children, friends, etc.). The book moves really quickly overall and so it doesn't fixate on most of the side characters (there's one that I think maybe will pop up again in future books), but the plot is really driven forward here. More of the mysteries from the first come to light, and I think it advances the overall story really well. I look forward to seeing what Anastasia will do next! Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.