Be forewarned: spoilers about the first book will abound.
It's been three months since the events of Across the Universe. Elder has taken over command of the ship, though he refuses to take on the title of Eldest. Amy still has to deal with sideways glances, distrust, and naked hostility from the majority of the inhabitants of Godspeed.
After taking the calming drugs out of the water supply, after trying to give the people of Godspeed some of the freedoms that Eldest had withheld, Elder has his hands full with a burgeoning rebellion. But there are still huge secrets being kept on Godspeed, and before he was trapped in his frozen prison, Orion created a path for Amy to discover them...
A Million Suns is an astoundingly great sequel. It completely avoids Second-Book Syndrome by being an ACTUAL ORIGINAL STORY. It's a continuation of the story begun in Across the Universe, yes, and stars the same narrators and the same cast of characters, but it doesn't rehash the same issues and challenges of the first book, and it doesn't just tread water while the pieces are being put into place for the final installment. No, at the end of Across the Universe, life has changed forever for Amy, Elder, and everyone else on the ship, and those changes factor into every element of A Million Suns.
Amy is still a difficult heroine—angry, stubborn, and more like the old Eldest than she'd ever admit—but the growth she achieved in the first book has tempered the more prickly parts of her personality, and now she's more likely to try and solve problems than simply run from them. Although they still share their narrative duties, this time it's Elder who does the most growing: into his role as leader, reconciling his personal relationships with his new leadership responsibilities and perspective, realizing that offering up freedoms isn't as simple a prospect as it sounds, and figuring out how to deal with dissent. He really comes into his own in this book: he makes hard choices, and he makes them as well as he can.
I alluded to this in my review of Across the Universe, but I want to state it more baldly here: I LOVE THAT THERE AREN'T EASY ANSWERS. I LOVE THAT THESE CHARACTERS STRUGGLE. I LOVE THAT THEY ARE FLAWED. LIKE, GENUINELY FLAWED, NOT THE 'OH, SHUCKS, SURE, I'M BEAUTIFUL AND TALENTED AND BRILLIANT AND WITTY, BUT I HAVE PROBLEMS, I SWEAR' SORT OF FLAWS, BUT ACTUAL, REAL PERSON, SOMETIMES-YOU-DISAGREE-WITH-THEIR-ACTIONS-AND-SOMETIMES-YOU-GENUINELY-DON'T-LIKE-THEM FLAWS. It's a brave move on the part of the author (Have you seen the action on GoodReads when people don't like protagonists? BRUTAL.), and it makes for such a more complex, thoughtful reading experience.
Also, I love that the romance isn't front-and-center, and I really love the related question about choice: is it really love if there are no other real options?
SO looking forward to Shades of Earth.
Bonus points: For closing what I thought was a plot hole in the first book IN THE VERY FIRST CHAPTER of this installment, which made me realize that it wasn't a plot hole at all, but THAT IT HAD BEEN PART OF THE PLAN ALL ALONG. YAY.
Full disclosure: Although we've never met in person, Beth Revis and I have interacted quite a bit online over the years. (Also, she's purchased stuff from my Etsy shop.)
Book source: Finished copy from the publisher.