Havoc is the sequel to Chris Wooding's young adult novel, Malice. Havoc picks up right where Malice left off: Seth returned to his home to retrieve a mystical ornament that would somehow help Kady and Justin defeat Tall Jake. As the story picks up, Seth needs to find his way back into Malice without Tall Jake knowing, then find Kady and Justin, and then the three of them still have to figure out how this strange ornament works. Oh, and Kady and Justin need to manage to survive just being in Malice.
Not surprisingly, Havoc has much the same tone and feel as Malice. It is the same author writing about the same characters and world after all. The publishers have also brought back many of their typographic tricks to spice up the visual interest on the prose pages, and Dan Chernett returns to illustrate the comic book portions of the book. Probably the most significant change from the first book is the pace. Whereas Malice moved along a little more leisurely as the reader explores the new people and world of the book, Havoc runs along at a faster clip with more directed action. The dangers in Havoc are decidedly more aggressive, forcing the characters to react more quickly and directly.
The story here is very much the second act of the overall tale. Having read the first book, it's hard for me to say with any certainty, but it seemed like Wooding does a fair job in Havoc catching new readers up to speed if they missed Malice. But for those who are familiar with the set-up, there isn't much in the way of obvious redundancies. So kudos to Wooding for handling that well.
Returning readers will also be pleased, I expect, to see that Wooding elaborates on many of the points from the first book. We get rationales for the villains' actions, we get to meet Grendel, we see more directly how/why the cats were helping. Tall Jake's plot is explained and was, to me, surprisingly nuanced; I was a tad disappointed not to see deeper character motivations behind it, but sometimes a bad guy just needs to be a bad guy. Which is okay here since A) it's a book aimed at kids and B) Wooding did provide plenty of depth for just about everyone else. The one lingering question of the overall story that I think wasn't addressed was how the comics were not reproducible and faded after a few days. The comic was barely mentioned at all in Havoc and more attention was paid to the printing facility, which gave me the impression that Wooding realized he didn't have an explanation and simply tried to gloss over that point. It's a minor issue since it's not terribly relevant to the plot, but I would've liked to seen a bit more attention paid to that.
While I liked the story on the whole, I did find the comic portions again lacking. As in Malice, I had a couple of distinct instances where I simply could not tell what was happening in the art, and I was only able to figure it out by later references in the text. As I noted before, Chernett is a more than capable artist judging by his other works, but the issues here highlight the difference between being a good artist and being a good storyteller. I would've liked to have seen these books illustrated by someone perhaps with a little more experience in comic storytelling specifically.
That said, I don't feel let down by Havoc. I really did enjoy the story in Malice and Havoc continued on that path well. I think this would be a great read for kids, and not a bad one for adults either.
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