Miss Mayhem (Rebel Belle #2)
By: Rachel Hawkins
Release Date: April 7th 2015
*Beware: Spoilers ahead!*
Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and her best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David (her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie) and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant. Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an ancient trial that will either kill her … or make her more powerful than ever.
Paladin Harper Price has spent the last few months dealing with the fallout from her disastrous Cotillion: her best friend Bee is still missing, Ryan (her ex-boyfriend) has become the Mage in the twisted mystical triangle of fate, and David is now a powerful Oracle prone to visions of the future that leave him (and often the area around him) a complete wreck. But Harper is nothing if not completely prepared to handle all sorts of stressful situations. That is, until the mysterious Ephors decide they’d rather have David alive and working for them, a decision which Harper is not ready to face without a fight. And it’s a fight she’ll get: in order to stay David’s Paladin, Harper must pass an ancient test, one where the outcome will either strengthen her connection with David and her powers or kill her. With unexpected attacks and both David and Ryan’s powers gone, Harper must face the trials on her own and become a true Paladin, even if that means losing those she loves most.
While Rebel Belle was all about Harper becoming a Paladin and introducing readers to the world of the Oracle, Miss Mayhem was more about the characters. That’s not unusual for the middle book in many trilogies, but I felt like this one took the relationship building to another level. Personally, I felt this was better at some points than others; while I loved getting more insight into how Harper and Co. have changed since the events of RB, I felt that some plot points seemed a little contrived in order to make those changes apparent. Nevertheless, MM is still full of fun action and witty commentary and that ending! Well, we’ll wait on that and start at the very beginning (as I hear it’s a very good place to start):
Drama is definitely the main theme throughout this book: boyfriend/girlfriend drama, supernatural drama, what-talent-should-I-choose-for-the-Miss-Pine-Grove-pageant drama. And while some people might find this a bit, well, dramatic, I loved how all the drama allowed us to get a good look at how the relationships between Harper, David, Ryan, and the rest of Pine Grove have changed after the events of Cotillion. Obviously the most important relationships are between our Triangle—Harper, David, and Ryan—and boy are those relationships twisty. Right off the bat, we find out that Harper and Ryan are keeping secrets from David (although it has nothing to do with the fact that they used to be an item). I totally understood Harper’s reasoning for using magic to block David’s more powerful visions. I couldn’t just stand by as mystical, futuristic visions destroyed my boyfriend’s mind and body from the inside out, either. And although Ryan has a good reason to dislike David (he did steal Harper, after all), it says a lot about him and his commitment to the position thrust upon him that he would be willing to cast a spell to keep David safe. Aside from that, I liked the tenuous nature between Harper and Ryan, that whole uncertainty of how to act around someone that you’d been with for a long time. It’s bad enough to run into your ex on the street; I can’t imagine having to work with him in a supernatural battle against the ‘forces of evil.’ Granted, the presence of other significant others—David for Harper and Mary Beth for Ryan—seem to make things a bit less awkward, until Mary Beth dumps Ryan when she thinks he and Harper are sneaking around behind her back. This is a perfect picture of the craziness that is a high school relationship, but at least it got Mary Beth (who I didn’t particularly care for) out of the picture and cleared the way for a new girlfriend.
That girlfriend is none other than Harper’s best friend Bee, who has been missing since the night of Cotillion. Turns out that she’s been with the Ephors, training to use her new Paladin skills. Two proper Southern girls who suddenly have super butt-kicking powers? Let’s hear it for strong female characters! I was so glad to have Bee back, both for Harper’s and the reader’s sakes. Harper needed her best friend, even more so because Bee already knew about the Oracle business, meaning Harper didn’t have to keep secrets anymore. Plus the fact that they both have Paladin powers gave us some really intense and awesome fight scenes between the two girls. How many other books have two female characters who can throw down with one another and not resort to slapping or hair pulling? There were tree limbs involved at one point, for crying out loud!! I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved those fight scenes. But of course, even best friends have their problems, and I can definitely say that walking in on your best friend making out with your ex-boyfriend would be a major problem. I liked that Harper didn’t make as big of a deal out of this as she could’ve; she was the one who dumped Ryan, after all, and she loves David. Once she gets over the initial shock of finding Bee and Ryan in a closet together, she pretty much gives the relationship her seal of approval as long as they’re both happy. A girl should always want her best friend to be happy, and Harper does a lovely job of dealing with her mixed emotions and letting Bee find her happiness.
And speaking of happiness, it seemed like Harper and David had found theirs at the end of RB and up through the first part of MM. David is (somewhat reluctantly) using his visions to help Harper’s friends stay on the ‘right’ path, although he and Harper disagree as to whether this interference will really change fate. Even though he’s not 100% on board, David knows that Harper is happiest when she’s helping others, so he’s willing to use his powers to help her. They’re still in that honeymoon phase, with lots of flirty comments and lots of kissing (PDA, gasp!), although the Paladin-Oracle relationship is still causing some strain. Cue the Ephors, who have decided that they’d be better off using David than killing him. He did survive the power-up ritual, after all, meaning he’s the most powerful Oracle they’ve had available in some time. While this would cause problems in and of itself, the Ephors (well, really just one Ephor named Alexander) throw in another revelation: Harper isn’t really a Paladin.
In order to be a true Paladin, she must undergo the Peirasmos, an ancient ritual that consists of three tasks that will test Harper’s mental and physical strength. These trials will determine if she’s worthy of being David’s Paladin, and failure is not an option. Well, technically, it is, but not if Harper wants to keep on living. And to top that off, if she fails, Bee will take her place. While Harper is at first irate about having been tricked into undergoing the Peirasmos (hasn’t she proven to be a worthy Paladin already?), she not only takes her role as David’s protector very seriously, but she doesn’t want to force her best friend into the role. Harper’s life is already crazy with all the Oracle stuff, and she doesn’t want Bee’s life to have to be as complicated as hers. Plus, who would want to fail and die just so you didn’t have to play supernatural bodyguard? Harper agrees to the trial for all the right reasons, but that doesn’t mean all is well. The Oracle-Paladin aspect of Harper and David’s relationship changes the whole dynamic, and despite their best efforts, the two decide to take a break as girlfriend and ‘boyfie’ and just focus on their mission. (See, more high school drama.) And while I was sad to see them apart and still forced to work together (which is so much more heartbreaking than Ryan and Harper working together), I knew things wouldn’t stay that way. After years of flirting hidden behind taunts and barbs and insults, Harper and David have to end up together. (Ms. Hawkins, you better make that happen, otherwise you will be receiving my strongly worded letter!)
But in the end, they sort of did stay that way. In a twist I sort of thought I saw coming but hoped I was wrong, David breaks through Alexander’s wards and leaves town. Without the Oracle in close proximity, Harper, Bee, and Ryan will lose their powers and can go back to having normal lives. Before his death, Alexander claims that David will lose his powers as well, which is a bit of a poisoned apple. Yes, losing his powers means David will stay David, that the Oracle will never overtake him, and Harper won’t lose the boy she loves forever. But then again, there’s always been an Oracle whose visions could help prevent disaster and tragedy on a local, national, and global scale. What will happen now that no one has the ability to see these events and stop them? I feel like this may be an important point in Book 3, but for now, I’m more concerned for Harper. She may have gotten her best friend back, but she’s lost the guy she loves and will soon lose her powers, which were the one thing that really made her feel special. David’s letter at the end, saved as Egregious Felicitations, made me lose it. It was sweet, it was selfless, it was perfect. Of all the difficult choices Harper has had to make, this one she couldn’t make, and so David made it for her. I have no idea where their relationship will go from here—can they still Skype or talk on the phone without reactivating their powers?—but I can’t wait to find out.
As I alluded to earlier, the only issue I had with this book was that sometimes the characterization came at the sacrifice of the plot, and by sometimes I really just mean the Miss Pine Groves pageant. The whole pageant business seemed strange to me. I get that it fell on the last night of the moon cycle (because of course it did) and so was likely the place where the third and final trial of the Peirasmos would take place, and it did provide a great setting for the showdown between Harper and Bee, but it almost seemed as if it was thrown in to have another major Southern tradition event, like Cotillion in RB. After Harper talked about how much her family disliked the pageant and how she had never even wanted to enter, she signs up. And that made sense for the story and was fine. What I didn’t like was the fact that no one really talked about it. No one really thought it was all that strange for her to be participating; everyone just accepted her excuse that ‘Bee and I are doing this together and it’ll be fun!’ I feel like Harper’s parents would’ve questioned her a little more, especially after she knocked out her principal and was clearly behaving strangely based on what they knew was going on (which admittedly wasn’t much, but still). Regardless, I did like the pageant in the end, I just didn’t think it felt as natural as a place for supernatural shenanigans as Cotillion had since Harper wouldn’t have been at the pageant except for its coincidental timing.
Overall, though, I loved Miss Mayhem. It had all the fun and snark that we got in Rebel Belle but with more drama and more kissing, of which I’m definitely a fan. Ms. Hawkins does a wonderful job of incorporating Southern culture and accents without being too over-the-top or making everyone sound like hicks, and she manages to bring each of the characters vividly to life. I really have no idea where things are going to go in Book 3, which is unusual for me, so I’m quite anxious for its release! As long as we get more drama, more action, and more kissing, it’s bound to be a fantastic read.
• “Hear, hear,” David muttered next to me, and I felt his hand land on mine on the arm of my chair. I glanced over long enough to smile at him, and across the desk, Alexander sat back in his chair. “So,” he said, nodding at our joined hands, “is that how things are?”…”David,” Ryan interjected, and I glanced over at him, throwing him a quick smile. Now all pleasantness disappeared from Alexander’s face, and he sat up in his chair. “Oh, for the love of the gods. Is it like that, too?”
• “I’m permanently tied to two guys I used to kiss.”
• Look, I’d love to tell you I was totally disgusted by the fried foods on display, but A) some of those trucks were raising money for various charities and schools, and B) deep-fried Oreos were sent from heaven to prove God loves us.
• “It’s fine,” I said quickly. “So super fine. I mean, we’ve been broken up”—I waved my hand between me and Ryan—“and you and Brandon are broken up, and Ryan and Mary Beth are broken up, and wow, there has been a lot of breaking up going on lately, I just realized that. I guess that’s the perils of trying to date in the middle of a supernatural crisis, right? Right.”