Julianna Baggott continues to draw readers into her strange world of people fused to other people, objects and animals in Fuse, the second book of the Pure Trilogy. Pressia and Bradwell are living at the OSR headquarters with a changed El Capitan, while her half-brother Partridge and Lyda are being sheltered by the Mothers. Partridge is kept separated from Lyda by the Mothers who still view him as a Death, so he occupies his time by drawing maps of the Dome and wondering about the vials from his mother. The Dome is desperate to have him back going so far as to kidnap a wretched girl and make her Pure, sending out additional Special Forces to find him and finally sending out metal spider bombs.
Back at OSR Bradwell and Pressia keep busy trying to figure out the secret of the black boxes, learning more about their pasts, and dealing with fanatical wretches who believe that the newly Pure girl is a sign of salvation. Pressia, Bradwell, Lyda, Partridge, El Capitan and Helmud reunite briefly until attacked by Special Forces and then scattered again when the Basement Boys arrive. I have to admit that among the many grim figures of this world, I was amused by the Basement Boys, teens who at the time of the Detonations were in their parent’s basements playing video games, for some the games fused to their hands. Although the Mothers tried to look after these boys, they are somewhat of a wild card in this book and it’s never clear what their mission is.
After this brief reunion, the characters continue on separate journeys and the book splits between what is happening in the Dome versus outside. Some scenes occur in both environments that stretch the imagination even for readers who were readily able to accept the weirdness of a boy with birds in his back or two brothers fused together. Outside the dome, Bradwell, Pressia, El Capitan and Helmud embark on an epic journey that is reminiscent of the quest for the Holy Grail, while inside the Dome Partridge learns that his father’s treachery extends even beyond setting off the Detonations. The scenes inside the Dome have elements of a spy novel and conspiracy theory. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does in the same way you don’t expect that root beer and ice cream would go together, but they do.
The second book in a trilogy always has a difficult role to extend the characters beyond their introduction in the first book and to create a bridge toward the climax of the third book. This book certainly sets up two explosive concurrent events that will change the trajectory for everyone in the final novel of the series. As for extending the characters introduced in the first book in the series, Fuse certainly delivers. In fact, while most YA dystopia has a clear protagonist who is the hero or heroine, this series offers multiple complex and heroic characters and the author is wise to give them equal time and back-story. Instead of admiring and rooting for a particular character, I found my attention and affection equally divided among them, which I think is the true strength of this second book.