The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest
Book 2 of 'The Black Witch Chronicles' isn't good. It's too long, too talky, the POV switches wildly and the heroine's defining realisations and quest for redemption bore. People are either hysterical or consumed with hatred. There are dissenting perspectives, victim narratives, false assertions and infernal prophecies. The heroine has gone from a docile conformist in a cultural hegemony to The Black Witch of legend, like duh.
People have aggressive threatening language and behaviour and massively traumatic things happen. This is all so unsubtle. People assume the worst of the heroine's intentions in an ethnically divided land. There are shameful responses and the heroine is incapable of understanding, even as she's ostracised and people are well aware of her name.
A cultural and attiude change is needed. Horrifying vicious things are done by a brutal imperialistic opressor. But there is no renewed sense of urgency or purpose. There is just longstanding dislike, incredibly cruel people, a debased culture and tense standoffs in this unmitigated disaster of a sequel which reads like an AU Rey/Kylo Ren fanfic.
“Do whatever is commanded for them. Without stopping to question any of it.”
“Charade of purity.”
“There's nowhere to go.”