Book Review: Pandemonium (Delirium #2)

paFollowing the devastating cliffhanger at the end of Delirium, Lauren Oliver returns with the eagerly anticipated sequel Pandemonium which surges the story forward and shows two polarized worlds on the brink of revolution.

This books switches between “Then” and “Now” conveying Lena’s story after she escaped past the barrier and into The Wilds at the end of Delirium.

The “Then” chapters focus on Lena’s arrival in The Wilds, where she is nurtured back to health by Raven and her group of Invalids – that is, those that are “uncured” or infected by the disease of love – and forced to reach deep within herself and call upon her inner survivalist in order to stay alive. The Wilds are wholly different to the world she once knew and she struggles on a daily basis with the thoughts of never seeing her family, her best friend Hana, or her lover Alex again. But to keep her momentum and hope alive, she settles on the fact that this is what she and Alex wanted: freedom; the option to make her own decisions and decide her own path. However, she soon comes to realize that her ideal of freedom is much more warped than she ever could imagine and life in The Wilds is not as perfect as she once thought it to be.

“Now” follows a more self-assured, confident Lena posing as a “cured” in New York, scoping out the latest activity in the DFA (Deliria-Free America). People are far more aware of Invalids and plans to eradicate the disease at a much earlier stage with the introduction of the cure at a younger age come in the form of Julian Fineman – the son of the leader of the movement whom also Lena has been tasked with keeping watch.  Soon she finds herself in a precarious situation in which she meets, and becomes very much acquainted with, Julian. Though seemingly on opposing sides, Lena and Julian have to work together to stay alive.

Any doubts about Oliver’s second book are cast aside as soon as the first chapter is finished. It is no secret that Oliver has a way with words that immediately captivate the reader and draws them into her vivid world and Pandemonium is further proof of this. Her flowery descriptions and fluidity allow one to get lost in the story from the outset.

The progression Lena makes from “Then” until “Now” is handled very well and through certain pivotal moments, it is easy to see how the vulnerable, hurt girl turns into the resolved woman who knows that she must do just about anything to survive. Oliver does a fine job at portraying both versions of Lena – both of which are completely different from the Lena of Delirium.

What is interesting to note is that Lena is the only character from the first book to appear in the second. Oliver has created a new world in Pandemonium and with it, has introduced all new personalities. Though people from Lena’s past are mentioned, only one character is seen briefly; the rest are those who she comes to rely on and know as family. It is a tricky act and rather risky on Oliver’s part to go down that route but she has created quirky and interesting characters that hold the reader’s attention. Nevertheless, the absence of some core people is definitely felt as the book goes on.

Though shorter than its predecessor, Pandemonium does drag in places, especially when focusing on the past. The present offers plenty of action and numerous twists and turns. In essence, it is in the present where the book thrives in momentum. The Wilds are undoubtedly an interesting landscape for the story but the lengthy chapters in this part seem to stall the action in the other, sometimes coming in at the most frustrating times and taking away from what is happening in the present.

That being said, Pandemonium is a great sequel to a great book. Oliver has most certainly not lost her touch when it comes to writing both romance and the inner struggles that one faces in trying times and her examination of Lena in her darkest hours is both beautiful and tragic. She has managed to produce new worlds full of new and vibrant people and still maintain the heart of Delirium. And, in true Oliver fashion, she leaves the reader with a cliffhanger that will not be easy to forget.

Exciting, intriguing and surprising, Pandemonium expertly paves the way for the final book of this trilogy, Requiem. 

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