Worth more than the price. Nice narrative drive. Solid depiction of martial arts culture and of adolescence. Not the strongest plot I've ever seen, but perfectly adequate; the characters are strong enough and dimensional enough to compensate.
Surprisingly good. The premise - a city where everyone reacts to the mask you wear rather than your "true" identity is superficially absurd. The author accepts that premise, writes to it, examines it as the characters would, and manages to tell a good story. The same could be said of the characters; they start rather thin, but acquire depth as the story progresses. It isn't a great book; most of the plot twists have too much or too little foreshadowing. Although I'm fond of novels written in the form of letters, that, plus the premise impose some constraints on the storytelling. The fun of the novel is the way the story overcomes those constraints.
Two flaws seriously undermine this story. First, the persistent use of present tense. There is no justification for this stylistic device, and it makes the novel sound like "Dick & Jane". Second, the lack of any sympathetic female characters. I can point to individual scenes where a woman contributes, but all the things which make a character interesting are reserved for male characters. Female characters are mostly plot devices - objects to be loved, lost, etc. I had hoped by this point that the protagonist would have found some way to use his magic other than to make things go boom; the few probes in that direction are abandoned - as was the notion that magic derived from rhyme. The protagonist is confronted with many problems that could be solved by magic, but only uses magic for violence. If that were an insight into the character it would make the novel stronger. Instead it seems to be an external assumption imposed on magic, which further weakens the novel.
Narrative drive is some stronger than the prior novel - there is a reason why the characters move forward and take action. A bit of a trite reason, and the action still seems rambling rather than focused, but there is a reason. The novel explores the characters more deeply than the first (which isn't saying a great deal), but not to the depth that the setting and premise suggest would be possible.
I don't want to dismiss this book; there are significant improvements over the first book, and I get the feeling that Mr. Pratt's skills as a writer continue to improve. Mr. Pratt evades most of the opportunities for disaster in the "real world to fantasy world crossover" genre, and should be complimented for that. I think he has a pretty good fix on what his target audience wants, and supplies it (although I wish he'd reach further). He's competent enough to drive a story forward, and I think the has the potential for much better work. This book however is not strong enough to motivate me to try the third book.