Duplicity, by Nikki Jefford (2012)

Duplicity (Spellbound #2)Duplicity by Nikki Jefford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In "Entangled," high school socialite Charlene Perez was forced to share her body with the soul of her less popular, sort of hippie-ish identical twin sister, Graylee. At the end of "Entanglement," Charlene and a friend expelled her twin's soul from the body they shared--her body--then Charlene was free to head off to school in France. There, she has a ball, speaking French and smoking cigarettes, until one day, when her sister, Graylee, awakens inside Charlene's body. The difference this time is that Charlene's body is all Graylee's--there's no Charlene soul to share with.

Graylee-occupied Charlene finds a credit card and some cash among Charlene's effects, and hops the first flight back to Seattle.

Of course, there's the matter of Graylee's soul already inhabiting the tall, gorgeous body of Stacey Morehouse. At the end of "Entangled," Graylee's expelled soul finds suitable lodging in Stacey's comatose body.

Raj, of course, is still madly in love with Graylee, and that Graylee's being now lives inside Stacey's supermodel-caliber body doesn't hurt. Then Charlene's body walks back into the picture, also with Graylee's soul. So Charlene/Graylee and Stacey/Graylee are now rivals, different people, even though they're the same soul, and for the most part, the same personality.

Meanwhile, a pox has descended upon the magical community, where people's spells go disastrously wrong, often backfiring on their caster. Raj, for example, tries to cast a spell, and all his clothes explode off of him.

Also back on the scene is Adrian Montez, the super warlock whose powers Graylee and Raj helped release several months back. Is he working for the two Graylees? For one and not the other? Is it his doing that the town's magic folk aren't able to control their powers?

Then there's The Contact, a necromancer who is responsible for having put Graylee's soul into Charlene's body in the first place. And, as it turns out, in the second place as well.

And it's The Contact who appears in the last short act, and resolves everything. It's called deus ex machina (God from the machine); when a book or play runs up against an insurmountable wall, suddenly a previously non-existent character pops into the story to bring resolution.

Beyond that, I had a hard time buying the dual Graylee plot device. Having Graylee and Charlene sharing Charlene's body--the primary storyline in "Entangled"--was inspired and fun. Seriously, two polar opposites alternating 24 hour periods inside the body? This was awesome.

Whereas that was double-plus good, the two 100% fully realized Graylee souls inhabiting different bodies at the same time just makes no sense. I get that it's fiction, and that the author is autonomous, but I don't think it was ever satisfactorily explained how two Graylee souls could exist. It's not like Voldemort's horcruxes in the Harry Potter septology--this is one soul completely occupying two separate people. A number of characters ask how it could have happened, and there were various theories trying to explain the forces at play. To accept "Duplicity," we have to accept that one soul can exist 100% in two bodies simultaneously. This sort of disparity is sufficiently odd that it needs to be sold airtight. Instead, we get that Ryan expelled Graylee's soul from Charlene's body last year, and then The Contact did the same thing. Which beggars the question, if Graylee's soul was no longer IN Charlene's body, how could it have been there for The Contact to expel it, if it had already been expelled?

My brain would explode if I tried to rationalize this conundrum any further, and the book's success or failure rests on the reader buying this premise. The characters gamely do their best with this seemingly impossible situation, and it's nice when the two Graylees come to terms near the end, but I can't see how they could simultaneously exist to enjoy this bonding.

Mainly, I think the book misses Charlene. One of the joys in "Entangled" was the contrast between Charlene's shallow, solipsistic meanness and Graylee's depth and goodness. Here, with two Graylees, that element is missed. Graylee needs a yin to her yang. We don't get that: just two yangs. Even the "villains" in "Duplicity" aren't uniformly villainous. I miss Charlene being a manipulative bitch.

"Duplicity" is not a terrible book. There are some good scenes. If it sets up a tremendous third installment, then I suppose it serves its purpose, even if the main premise is, to me, untenable. After the super-fun "Entangled," I was hoping for more.

Because "Entangled" was so good, I'll jump on book three when I get the chance. So often, the middle book in a trilogy is by far the weakest. I hope that's the case here. "Entangled" deserves a worthy conclusion.

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About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
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