This book in particular is a surprisingly in depth exploration of character. I’ve always admired the characterization in these books. It might seem at first like you can pin down each character in one category, one type of person, but that’s not the case at all. They each have their own qualities that aren’t indicative of any character type. For instance, Kate is brave and resourceful and tireless, but she’s also vengeful and determined and endlessly optimistic. She has a bucket full of tools and a peregrine falcon and is always trying something new. She trains animals, was part of a circus, and fiercely loves her father. She is also given to bad jokes.
Reynie, now, is brave and a natural leader. He is good at solving puzzles and problems in general. He looks at people and sees beneath the surface, and as a result constantly questions humanity’s innate goodness or wickedness. He has good instinct and goes with his gut when trusting people and is usually a fantastic judge of character, but sometimes his internal questioning makes it hard for him to trust people. He is also the only one with a deep connection with Constance, who prefers and trusts him above all others. He can understand her (and tolerate her) more than the others.
Sticky goes through a transformation in the beginning of the book and suddenly has to deal with pride in tandem with his expansive knowledge. But he also overcomes a lot of his fear and gets depressed when he can’t be as helpful as he wants, so he strives to make up for it and towards the end of the book he has his shining moment as a bolster to the rest of the group when spirits are low. He and Reynie strengthen their friendship because Reynie understands that Sticky needs it. Sticky has his parents now to care about him but Reynie was there when his parents weren’t and they have a bond that no one else shares.
Constance becomes a tiny bit less obstinate (but not where it truly matters, meant as a good thing) as she struggles to deal with her newfound ability to detect patterns and therefore notice things others don’t, like weather patterns and noises people can’t hear and she can practically read minds by loking at people’s expressions. She places her trust and most of her reliance in Reynie (and Mr. Benedict). She has confidence in him and she can read him more easily than she can read anyone else, which is unsettling but important for both. Her importance and usefulness in this adventure is more than the last, and this both excites her and puts her under a lot of pressure, so Reynie has to work to keep her happy or at least calm. But she gains respect for each of them.
Even Milligan grows. He has to struggle with being a father after years of amnesia, and finds himself frustratingly ineffective a lot of the time. He also has to juggle that with his almost supernatural ability as a secret agent. He’s nearly invincible, but like Mr. Benedict, protecting the children is his weakness along with his determination not to do anyone any real harm. This is also an issue Kate struggles with. At the end of the book, she has to make the choice whether to endanger herself and her friends or kill Mr. Curtain and his crew. But she realizes that her father and Mr. Benedict have a point. She- none of them, for that matter- simply doesn’t have it in her to be evil like them.
Everyone grows in this book. There is a lot of development, and yet I wouldn’t say this is an entirely character-driven story. These books are just as much about plot. And the plot is just as exciting as the first one, although perhaps a bit more personal for Mr. Benedict, which helps add to the gravity of- well, everything. This book was more serious than the first. There was also the issue of things that had to be done for the greater good, which is perhaps one of the most pressing and disturbing issues in good vs. evil type situations.
The characterization is so good that the characters actually serve as inspiration too. See, as I write this, I am on a cruise in Brazil, and often I find myself being each of the characters. Most often I am Constance, of course, and occasionally I’ll even find myself composing clever poetry in my head. Then I’ll be Kate and wish I had a spyglass to match hers (I do intend to get one) because it would be so cool to have one on a ship. Then the seawater will get on my sunglasses and I’ll reach to polish them and I’ll be Sticky. And when I do my deep thinking of course I’m Reynie. The four of them are so inspiring and lifelike that I feel like a part of each of them lives in me.
“‘It will be a dark day,’ said Reynie grimly.
‘It will be a dark night,‘ said Kate.
Sticky started to say that it would be a total solar eclipse in conjunction with unseasonably heavy cloud cover, but Constance interrupted him.'”
I just love this part because it characterizes each of them perfectly. Reynie’s always metaphorical and emotional, Kate is always accurate, Sticky is always over-the-top factual, and Constance is too busy interrupting to be anything.