While I really loved the first book, I was more lukewarm about this one. I think it's because the first one showed us the apocalypse itself. We saw the main characters' lives, hopes and dreams both before and after the apocalypse. This gave the book much more light and shade than the second in the series which basically consists of a bunch of the major players traipsing through the post-apocalyptic wilderness struggling against the elements and a bunch of nasty zombie-like creatures and some cannibals to boot. Evie struggles to re-establish her relationship with bad-boy Jackson who, as a Cajun boy with a good Catholic upbringing, has trouble coming to terms with her supernatural talents. Her task is made more difficult by her growing connection (and the sense of a shared past) with the Grim Reaper himself. Evie also struggles to establish alliances with other tarot characters so she can foil the game and avoid everyone's inevitable (or is it?) battle to the death.
I think the problem for me is that this book is more of a one-note love triangle set against the backdrop of a dystopia than a truly engaging story. The first book set up all sorts of intriguing questions which are more or less put on hold in this book: for example, why the "opening event" (the flash) of this version of the game almost destroyed the whole world while previous games' opening events weren't quite so traumatic; and what's supposed to happen after the game is over. Even Jackson's struggle between religion/morality and his love for Evie isn't as poignant as it seemed it was going to be as set up in the first book. And Evie's struggle to come to terms with who and what she is hits the same notes multiple times. There's very little growth and character development in this book in contrast to the first in the series.
As with all of Cole's books, the writing is very clear, the pace brisk, the characters well drawn and the plot easy to follow. But there's not as much plot as I would have liked here. Parents should also be warned that there's some sex scenes in this book that are pretty racy for a younger audience, certainly more racy than the first book where the main romantic relationship was more noble, chaste and sweet. I'm not prepared to give up on this series just yet, but I do hope there's more depth in the next book and that Cole doesn't rely so much on action sequences and sex scenes to keep the reader engaged.