It’s one year later. Everything has changed.
Remember The Second Chance Institute (SCI). Earth’s benevolent non-profit by day, Thera’s totalitarian regime by night. They’ve stepped up their game on Earth and on Thera—infiltrating political parties, preying on the downtrodden, and planning offensive maneuvers. And they’re handing out more “second chances” than ever before. The SCI’s abuse of their charter leads to Arbiter oversight and bitter consequences.
Remember Kira Donovan. Broken, burdened, and evading those who wish her harm, Kira enlists the Arbiters’ help when forced to return to the clutches of the SCI and her angry, estranged love.
Remember Blake Sundry. Exiled, determined, and packing an agenda, Blake seeks assistance on Earth and Thera to use his newfound knowledge to bring down the SCI.
Remember Ethan Darcton. Overworked, emotional, and holding a grudge, Ethan hunts down his stolen property, but finds himself in awkward territory, stuck between the Arbiters and the SCI.
One year ago, (at the end of daynight) Kira agreed to comply with the Second Chance Institute and be Cleaved to either Ethan Darcton or Blake Sundry, both boys that she loved for different reasons, both pure-blooded Darks that the SCI wanted to use to create future heirs of Thera, Earth’s sister planet. Because Blake chose to work with the Exilers and to fight against the SCI, Kira and Ethan were cleaved. But before they had a chance to consummate their Cleaving, Ethan was whisked off to finish law school on Earth, and Kira was impregnated with both Blake and Ethan’s offspring. A year later, Kira is in hiding with Jax, an Arbiter and Ethan’s childhood best friend, after several attempts on the lives of Kira and her three children.
While I enjoyed this book overall, I did struggle with a few elements. For one thing, the character development seemed very shallow, and the characters themselves actually really annoyed me. Kira was whiny and held grudges. She expected all three of her baby daddies to have paternal feelings after simply being forced to be what Blake aptly put as “sperm donors.” I also felt that she was too hard on Ethan when he attempted to move on after she faked her death. Ethan was possessive, shallow, and immature and he treated Kira like an object. But after reflecting, she didn’t treat him right. While I didn’t like Ethan as a character in this book, he’s a victim of circumstance.
While reading this book, I loved Jax as a character. I was team Jax all the way. For one thing, he’s the only one who treats Kira right. He also brings some comedic relief and wit to the novel. As a love interest, he gives Kira all the time she needs to come to her conclusion about who she wants to be with. However, after thinking about it, he’s kind of too good to be true. His only real personality traits are that he’s funny, that he’ll do anything for Kira, and that he’s good dad material. To me, his character could have been developed a lot better.
Blake was a likeable character for me, but I felt a little frustrated when he sacrificed himself for the children he didn’t really know or care about. It was too cookie cutter, like a neatly tied off, textbook hero complex. Even his relationship with Madison screamed hero complex. Bailey–although a fairly minor character–was totally underdeveloped as a villain. Throughout the whole book, she came off as possessive, slutty, and angry. Then at the end, she came out of nowhere as some supervillian who had arranged for a bomb and for all of Kira’s children to be killed.
The other thing that really bugged me about this book was that it jumped around a lot both chronologically and between different POVs, making it a little hard to follow. However, I did think the world-building got a lot more creative in arbitrate than it had been in daynight. I really liked what Thomason did with the SCI and how they had gained control in the governments on Earth. However, I thought that the concepts of Arbiters and Genitors was a little bit underdeveloped. I got what they do, but I actually kind of felt like a book that was called “arbitrate” should have focused more on the Arbiters and what they were doing, whereas I felt like it actually focused more on the Genitors, what they are, where they come from, etc.
I can’t say I loved this book, but I definitely liked it. I struggled a bit with some of the characters, but I do like the world that Thomason has created. I give this book three out of five stars, and I recommend it for avid readers of dystopian and science fiction.