✎Title: Crushed (Soul Eater #2)
✎Author: Eliza Crewe
✎Publisher: ????? (Formerly Strange Chemistry – any takers?!)
✎Publication date: I has a sad*
I had been waiting until closer to publication date to post this, since I literally read it within a single day of it going live on NetGalley. And then, well, shit happened and second, more shit happened (SC closure). So I’m posting this because I’d already written it, and well, why not? Have a ~1600 word reason why someone else should pick up the Soul Eater series.
Crushed, the second Soul Eater book sees Meda back on form, doing her best to be ‘good’, whilst having absolutely everyone around her acting like a jerk, trying to keep her safe through deceit, or forcing her to ignore her true nature. Meda’s mother tried that—and look how that turned out.
The first book introduced Meda, who despite everything, has a wicked side that she simply can’t deny. In all fairness, she wouldn’t want to. She might follow her mother’s guide of only eating the souls of the bad people—but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a blast doing so. Eating people is fun: the anticipation, the fear—the blood! She loves it, a true creature of the darkness, crunching and splashing her way through the shadows like she was born to them (she kind of was; at least half of her was), punishing the wicked and avenging the ghosts who seek her out and point out their murderers.
Meda loves all that. In fact, without all that, she’d die. Alright, the thrill of the chase, the revelling in the blood and fear and general gore isn’t a necessary element of her diet, but she really must eat people if she’s to live.
And she is down with that.
Only, the Templars kind of aren’t. Being all haughty and lofty and light as they are, they fervently disapprove of Meda’s diet and barely tolerate her Hunger. That’s because they actually fight demons, waging a slowly-losing war that’s been going on since who’s-even-counting-anymore. They kill demons and protect human souls—especially the souls of Beacons, who are special humans with strong souls, good souls, who have the ability and capacity for great and potentially world-changing goodness.
That’s fine, too. Meda understands that. She also understands that if things were different, she’d be at the top of their list to off. Which is double-fine, because she knows a few Crusaders she’d like nothing more than to set off running at a sporting head start into the woods, in the dark, with her prancing eerily behind, licking her lips in anticipation.
But the problem is that Meda isn’t just a dark demon soul-eating thing. She’s also a Templar. She has Crusader blood, courtesy of her mother, a demon, and a very long story. What’s more is that she is a Beacon herself, meaning however much the Templars really, really want to impose a super strict diet (even stricter than the neon-orange lacking diet she and the rest of the kids are already on), they kind of need her alive. For more than one reason. Sure, she’s a Beacon, but she’s also incredibly kick ass. Half-demon, half-Templar, Meda has butt-kicking down to an art. And never mind if she can master the magic that the Crusaders use… Well, then she’ll be taking names all day.
Of course, the Crusaders don’t really trust Meda, despite all her efforts to be good—and, to be fair, heaped evidence to the contrary. Hell, if they’d known Meda when she was being bad, they’d be the first to hand her a gold star and tell her just how good she’s being now. But that’s not going to happen and all she hears is “be good, Meda”, “don’t do anything bad, Meda,” “good monkey is good, Meda!”.
And frankly, she’s getting tired of it. And naturally, there’s only so much she can stand. Things will eventually spill over, especially if they keep treating her so badly. So unfairly.
Granted, Meda can see why the Templars are a little sensitive. She was sort of responsible (though it wasn’t her fault!) for the destruction of the Crusaders’ last school and she might have got people killed through this mishap or that mistake, this ignorance, or that little lie—but she didn’t mean to start an all-out war between both sides. Meda hardly knows anything about either side of her heritage, so she certainly can’t be blamed for the domino events that led to where she and the Crusaders are now. Some don’t blame her—like her BFF Jo and her boyfriend (thanks to Meda, in point of fact, tyvm) Chi—but even Meda can see why she gets it. She’s a half-demon, a monster. In fact, she is the monster. Nobody really knows what to do with her…
And that’s what’s bothering Meda right now.
With the sudden arrival of another chapter of Templars, ones who seem all professional in comparison with her biker gang of a chapter, dressed in suits and stern faces, Meda is worried something is up. And she’s right: something is very up. But Meda has no idea just what the Templar bigwigs have in store for her, and she’d probably run away into the night, never to be seen again, if she had any notion. Hell…Jo would probably run with her, just to make sure she stays good whilst doing it.
Or she might, if Meda wasn’t certain her cranky-ass super-bitch of a friend is hiding something from her. Not only does Meda have to endure daily humiliation and her only ever friend’s slow alienation of herself from her, but she’s got a horrible feeling that things are about to go belly-up any moment. Teens are being drafted into the ranks sent out to fight demons and the bullying is getting to a point where Meda doesn’t know how long it will be before she bites someone’s head off. Literally (probably).
And then there’s Armand.
The only other person in the world who feels even remotely like Meda. He’s gorgeous, just as wicked as she is, and he’s a half-demon, too. So he’s not a fancy-ass Templar too, but not everyone’s perfect. (It’s a curse.) She doesn’t trust him, of course, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have some fun, does it? Because ohhh, Meda is starved of fun and she’s sick of her stupid diet. Still, with both her mother’s voice and Jo’s nagging echoing inside her head at all times to “be good, be good, be goooooood”, she does her best to hold back, to only taste the freedom that Armand can offer her. She wants to down the lot, knock it back like bright-orange soda—but she can’t.
She’s not that girl.
But neither is she the girl who will let herself be pushed around, let those around her ask for more and more and more and never give an inch in return. She is totally not that girl. The Crusaders will have to realise that they cannot cage Meda or the wicked monster that she is—not if they’re going to keep her on side.
Only… when you’re screaming inside and the darker side of you is resonating with something so similar, so there… How easy would it be to just, give in? Meda is going to find out. In this energetic and darkly hilarious second instalment of Crewe’s Soul Eater series, Meda finds herself alone, and faced with the bars of a cage, or the open fields of freedom.
What choice will she make? And will it be the right one?
This second book is as wickedly delightful as the first, just as fantastic in its casting of Meda and her monster routine, but I found the pacing slightly more dragging, as though the book plodded a little to begin with, before suddenly sprinting full-pelt towards the end. Maybe that’s an analogy of Meda’s mood: slower and plodding as she struggles through the day, stifled and trapped, only then to rush ahead once given a taste of freedom. That’s fine, but it lacked something of the relentless pace of book one and therefore could have been a smidgen better.
Moreover, what took this book from a five to a four for me was how the narrative seemed to treat Meda. In the first book there was a great deal of acknowledgement of how, yes, Meda is wicked and dark and she eats people—but that’s not all she is and really, though she’s acerbic, she also has a (whether she likes it or not) heart of gold. But here, despite the appalling treatment she receives throughout the book (and it is shitty), there is plenty of justification for the Templars’ treatment of her, but very little actual agreement with Meda that, yes, they are being unfair. She is constantly made to feel guilty and unreasonable and childish, even in the face of people having flat-out lied to her and hidden the situation from her. There was plenty of, “oh the Templars are justified in treating you like shit”, but not nearly enough “but yes, they’re treating you like shit.”
As if Meda doesn’t have enough in her past to be ashamed of, to feel guilty about—she doesn’t need any more. She is what she is and she’s doing her best, whilst being a teenager, whilst being completely unique and alone in what she is, whilst having everyone look at her like she’s to blame for the world falling apart.
It just irked me a little, hence the four-star review. Otherwise, this book was as juicily excellent as the first, with all the right ingredients to carry Meda’s story on. She feels deeper, evolved and stronger than in Cracked and already she was a total bad-ass heroine then.
Now she invented badassery.
*(I couldn’t tell from either GR or Amazon if this baby ever got pubbed, and I’ve been out of the loop for months and I know I never received mine, so… as far as I know, since pub date was August, and SC closed… two-and-two, and all that…)