The Decaying Empire (The Vanishing Girl Series Book 2) by Laura Thalassa
**I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review**
For 18 year old Ember Pierce, coming back from the dead is not all it’s cracked up to be…while she’s happy to still be alive, her life is still not her own – a slave to the very people who tried to orchestrate her death in her last mission where she was set up. For her partner Caden Hawthorne, he’s spent the last 10 months grieving what he thought was Ember’s death – and bordering on reckless behavior since then. But when she transports to him one day, his hope in being with her is renewed with a passion. Being reunited, they realize that their original plan of escaping is their only chance to be together and rid of The Project once and for all. With betrayal by a team member on their last mission still ever-present in Ember’s mind and Dane Richards still threatening their every move, Caden and Ember make a promise to each other to stay in it for the long haul – to never forget that they are never in it alone.
Reunited once again at the facility, Dane senses Ember’s unease with being back, and instead of placing her and Caden back into the field, they send them to the Montana facility – aka the breeding facility where they send the ex-teleporters with their pairs to create all sorts of new teleporter babies. But Ember and Caden won’t accept that fate – they want to start a family on their own terms…after they have lived a few years and gotten used to each other first. They refuse to do it under The Project’s ever watchful eye. But as usual, Dane Richards and The Project are one step ahead of them…they think if they can get the Pair acclimated quickly to the Montana facility, they will fall into step and follow their “mission”. Seeing as Ember is still randomly teleporting, even during the day, not just once during her sleep cycle – she’s in constant danger and would endanger Caden if they were to run. With her still teleporting to Adrian Sumner, the son of the creator of the Project and its technology, she reaches out to him for help. He reluctantly agrees, but when time runs out and the pair is moved to the Montana baby-facility, Ember is forced to really rely on Adrian – even when Caden expresses his fears that Adrian isn’t a good guy. But considering the options, Adrian is the better of the two evils Ember and Caden are faced with. When they finally get the chance to run, they make a resolve to stay by each other’s sides, no matter what – but with the obstacles still popping up at every turn, can they truly trust anyone accept each other? Will they get the freedom they so adamantly crave worth all the risks – even each other?
I am still amazed at the strength and intelligence that Ember exhibits! She stays true to herself, and eventually Caden – even when she tries to part ways with him for his own safety. Her reasons are selfless and right. While this story had quite a bit more “running” and teleporting, the first book gained a half a star more from me only because I really enjoyed seeing Ember and Caden’s relationship coming together, the slow burn they had for each other. While it’s still there – without a doubt – they didn’t get much of a chance to really grow as a couple, partly because of Caden thinking Ember is dead and partly due to all the running from the Project. I still LOVED the story – and cannot wait to see what happens next…serious cliffhanger ending! Naughty, naughty Ms. Thalassa!