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Stargazer (Evernight) - Claudia Gray Sequels are interesting beasts: they have to not only maintain the standard and rules of the previous book(s), but they have to build on it, continuing the growth of both the characters and the story. Stargazer, the sequel to 2008's Evernight achives all these goals admirably, making for for an excellent sequel with plenty of promise for Hourglass, the upcoming third book in the series.

Given the ending of Evernight, the overarching romantic plot - that of a pair of starcrossed lovers, one vampire, and the other a vampire hunter - is obviously going to be facing new trials. But instead of hitting us with constant moping (there is still some moping, of course, but thankfully it is not the focus of the whole book), Gray uses the situation to full advantage. Bianca (and Lucas) are active instead of just reactive, and their quest to keep in contact and be together drives the book and sets of a chain of events. Through secret meetings with Lucas do we learn more about Black Cross, their methods and members; through Balthazar's involvement and desires we learn more about his backstory as well as more of Evernight Academy's; and Gray weaves together these subplots as well as more to create an entire, complex story on a much grander scale than any one part could hope to ever be. Add in the new threat of wraiths and their history with both Bianca and vampires in general, and we see a world that is gradually growing - or at least Bianca's knowledge of the world is growing, just like the rest of her.

What made me enjoy Stargazer most though was the characters. If you are anything like me, and often find yourself just as interested (if not more so) in the minor/secondary characters than the primaries, then you'll be glad to know that many of the secondary characters step forward in Stargazer and prove how wonderful they are. These characters have not fallen into the trap of background/friend characters in other works, being static and only to serve the character and poorly act as devices. Not only does Balthazar's development here cement his status as YA fiction heartthrob, it also cements his position as an important player entrenched in a newly developing subplot. Vic proves to have surprising depth and intelligence to him, while Ranulf provides moments of humour as well as thoughtfulness as he struggles to catch up with a world that left him behind centuries ago. And Raquel (oh, poor Raquel), suffering horrors while showing off a quiet strength that I hope to see more of. Actually, I would like to see more of all these characters, and I do hope they appear prominently in future books.

Overall Stargazer is a nice addition to a series, continuing to show the promise displayed in book two. Upping the ante and adding new developments while building on the old made it a fast enjoyable read, and one that left me hanging on for the next installment. Book three in this series, Hourglass, is due out in March 2010, and until then I am forced to wait impatiently.

Four stars.