Mercy is now the family’s Anchor and technically in charge of the magic of her family and one of the most powerful witches in the world. If the other Anchors would let her be. Hemmed in, limited, constantly spied on to say nothing of her struggle for control, Mercy isn’t finding power particularly easy to live with – especially since all that power cannot be used to find her lost sister
Her fragile world is further thrown into disarray with the return of her mother – who she thought dead in child birth. Her mother has an entirely different story not just of her death and her family but of the origins of magic herself. Mercy, who knows all too well that her family can and does lie to her, now has to try and find the truth between the competing sides and the reality of magic itself – knowing whichever side she chooses will mean losing family.
Throughout a lot of this book we’re left very much in doubt about who to trust, who to support and what the truth is.
A lot of books trey to create this – and usually fail pretty badly. Usually it’s very clear which person is actually the bad guy and while the protagonist may trust them, it’s usually while the reader yells “noooo what are you doing?!”
But both the first book and this book has done an excellent job of continuing that uncertainty and leaving us never sure which character can be trusted. Not because they’re all evil – but because they’re all very human and very flawed. They have their own foibles, they have their own weaknesses, they have their own problems, their own agendas their own values. From Oliver’s light, often self-centredness and casual manipulation to Iris and Ellen with their own tumultuous love lives all overshadowed by loyalty to the Line that permeates the families and makes them make rather extreme decisions if they begin to think the line is under threat.
And the Line itself adds a whole new level of complexity and uncertainty. We have the “official” version of what the line is – of the barrier that keeps the demons at bay that would enslave them all as they have in the past. But that is the official version, the Anchor’s version – a version that suits them well and empowers them. A version pushed by Ginny who we know was deceptive and dangerous and manipulative and certainly didn’t have Mercy’s best interests at heart. But there are rebel families – it seems rather unlikely that the rebel families aren’t fighting for the eager chance to be slaves – so an alternate narrative seems likely, especially since those Anchors love their secrecy.
This is even more complicated by the witches even acting in the best of faith simply not understanding the true nature of the line or the world they’re in – which, in turn, makes them potential antagonists towards Mercy.
Throw in the added difficulty of family connection, Mercy’s long lost mother and her mere existence pointing towards deception among those closest to her (and after those closest to her having already hurt her already) means we’re genuinely in a position of not knowing who to trust.
This makes the whole plot work – it makes Mercy’s conflicts work on top of not knowing what to tell Claire and Peter (while at the same time expanding the world building in a very new way with them) and be far more than Mercy just sitting around stewing and worrying.