First off, Diamond & Dawn is an incredible improvement over the previous novel. Selene has grown as a writer, and it shows. Her language is still flowery and she is descriptive, but there is substance behind her words now which makes this novel far more engaging than its predecessor.
The most significant change is with the characters. At first, Mirage is still wholly unlikable, starting off the novel the same way she left off: selfish. Mirage is quite literally the most selfish character, caring about what she wants in life, what she thinks she deserves, but in this novel, her scope is finally expanding beyond her own selfish needs. Highlighting Selene’s growth as a writer, the reader sees Mirage grow as a character. Mirage begins to ask herself serious questions such as what kind of leader she wants to be and how she has earned her place as Empress, or instead how she can earn her place. It makes her more human, more relatable even while she remains somewhat unlikable.
What is more, is that the other characters get to shine as well. Sunder becomes more than a cliché, there is depth to his history, to his pain than in the previous novel where he was the brooding love interest. There is more substance behind his characterization, and the same goes for Oleander and Lullaby. They become more than the mean girl and the best friend. Much like with Sunder, Selene’s explores the pain in their past, giving more depth to their personalities and allowing them to be foils to each other.
Selene could have fleshed out the dynamics little more as they do stutter a bit, but now this band of friends is more than the cliché breakfast club they were in the previous novel.
There is also a vast improvement on the pacing. In the previous novel, the story dragged along, but here, it moves swiftly and steadily, allowing the reader to be more engaged and invested in the plot and the characters. There are significant plot twists and turns that make this novel less predictable than its predecessor, and they all work to make the story engaging for the reader.
Overall, a vast improvement that strays away from the clichés and predictability, allowing the characters to shine and grow. (★★★☆☆)