If you haven’t read my review of the first book in Christa Wojciechowski’s The Sculptor series, Oblivion Black, click here to read it. Its follow-up. Hierarchy of Needs, follows that book directly, continuing the story the author introduced readers to. However, while Hierarchy of Needs is a direct continuation, picking up where the former left off, Wojciechowski has crafted an entirely different tale, albeit one that continues its exploration of sex, violence, mental health issues, drug addiction. The subject matter is, once again, heavy and unflinching.
I always aim to avoid spoiling books in my reviews. In the case of sequels, I also aim to avoid spoiling what came before it. In the case of Hierarchy of Needs, this means I need to be especially careful, as it forms the second half of the story started in Oblivion Black. Hierarchy of Needs’ setting has changed to New York, bringing Ona back to where she started her journey, in the city where she suffered her overdose. While Ona and Antoni’s story continues to form the backbone of the tale, rather than building towards a woman throwing a wrench into their budding romance, this sequel expands the scope to the drug trade in New York, a drug that causes gangrene, killing its users, and a shadowy crime figure known only as “Warlock.”
At an estimated 339 pages on Kindle (at the time of writing, there’s no paperback version of Hierarchy of Needs), the novel is about fifty pages shorter than its predecessor. Despite this, the scope has increased, as has its world and its cast of characters. While a number of characters from the original book don’t appear, or have drastically reduced roles. both of which help the book’s relative brevity, it still packs more into its pages.
Hierarchy of Needs maintains a similar pace to its predecessor, slowly unveiling the story, weaving in the events that lead to the book’s climax. While written as carefully as the first book, this doesn’t work quite as well: despite the gut wrenching moments that fill its first half, it lacks its predecessor’s sense of urgency, as its characters move through the story without as strong a direction. As the story picks up and the reader gets a greater sense of where the tale is going, it becomes easier to lose yourself in the world. However, the increased scope of the story shifts the focus externally, resulting in Ona and Antoni’s relationship playing a smaller part of the tale. What transpires is a thoroughly entertaining crime story, but it lacks the personal edge of its predecessor.
Like Oblivion Black before it, Hierarchy of Needs is predominantly told in the first person, narrated by Ona. Once again, Ona’s voice is an absolute delight. She is written beautifully, with her perspective providing colour to the world. Certain events in the book are a sucker punch, ensuring the reader feels for her and everything she endures. Also once again, the book shifts to a third person narrative as it features additional point of view characters. A large portion of these scenes again revolve around Antoni, but Wojciechowski increases the number of point of view characters. The novel also features far more of these scenes, changing these from something that felt like interstitials to a regular occurrence. The regularity of these third person scenes took me away from Ona’s journey, rather than coloured it. Given the increased scope of the story, it’s natural there will be more time spent outside of Ona’s perspective, but it’s something I found to be a little disappointing.
The biggest casualty of shifting the point of view is Antoni. He’s a wonderful character and remains that way, but the book spends less time with him and his psyche, focusing more on events that surround him. The character is still clearly defined, but he doesn’t shine as brightly this time around. Once again, Ona is handled spectacularly, and the supporting cast is wonderful. Both characters, old and new, are handled with aplomb, and every new addition enhances the story. Once again, the dialogue is a joy to follow, with all of the characters feeling distinct, and most importantly, real.
As Hierarchy of Needs expands its scope, adds more point of view characters and focuses less on Antoni’s psyche, the book follows less of the romance tropes than its predecessor. It creates a different effect, and there’s less of a sense of dread about the budding relationship. It’s still a factor in the novel, but feels less important this time around. Instead, the plot feels more like a thriller, which it does incredibly well, if it’s not quite as resonant as the first volume.
Following Oblivion Black’s cliffhanger ending, Hierarchy of Needs doesn’t stand on its own. If you pick this up without having read its predecessor, you’ll be lost. However, that book is wonderful, so reading it first is a fulfilling experience. Although the author’s The Sculptor has one more book to go, Hierarchy of Needs reaches a satisfying conclusion. While the reader will need both these two books, they won’t need to read the third to feel satisfied. There is plenty more to come, and the book ends in a way that should entice readers to keep going, rather than force them to.
Hierarchy of Needs feels less personal than its predecessor. While it’s a bigger tale set across a wider canvas that offers more action, I miss the focus on the relationship the first book offered. This remains a great book, and one well-worth reading for Ona’s continued adventures. And while I preferred Oblivion Black, this book still has me eagerly looking forward to the release of The Sculptor’s conclusion, Darklands.
Antoni would never send me away if I was his true muse. Now I was a shameful embarrassment. A source of revulsion. I took out my phone and looked at the picture I took the night we revealed Spe Nova at the Thrive Foundation’s auction. The Hands of God obviously loved this woman beyond mortal human love. But I was not the Spe Nova. Antoni had sculpted an idealized version of me. The real me was flawed and scarred. The real me did not have an aura of peace and wisdom. I was lost and cynical. My existential angst, as Antoni told me that night in his art room, would have bled through the clay, leaving a sad wilting creature instead of this beacon of hope. No, I could never live up to Spe Nova. Antoni had been infatuated with an imaginary woman.Hierarchy of Needs, Chapter 9: “Stockholm Syndrome”
Hierarchy of Needs was provided by BookSirens for the purpose of an honest review.
Hierarchy of Needs is available on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon.
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