Vortex opens where Tempest left off, but I can only compare Vortex to whatever your county fair's wildest, most unpredictable ride is. (Mine, for reference, was called the Himalaya, and it was equal parts fun and terrifying.) Vortex is not a slow novel, and it is not a mild novel. Vortex is one twist and turn after another, thrilling emotional highs and devastating lows that brought real tears to my eyes.
Once again we follow Jackson as he ventures deeper into the world of Tempest, the CIA branch that exists to fight EOTs (Enemies of Time,) or rogue time travelers. Julie Cross weaves this second installment right into your heart with growth from Jackson, and other characters like his dad, Kevin, and CIA agent Jenni Stewart. I was tense reading Vortex. I was BROKEN reading Vortex, because I kept sinking right into Jackson's story so effortlessly. Both old and new characters immediately felt like real people, for the duration of Vortex. And something that was as genius as it was frustrating is how time travel and notions of parallel universes come into play to show us familiar characters in ways and places we - and I - NEVER expected to find them. Scenes I never thought I'd see but hoped for are in Vortex, which conspired to leave me shaken or hopeful.
Plot-wise, Cross steps everything up a few notches, in terms of mysteries, secrets, and danger. There were several moments where I found myself re-reading paragraphs to make sure I'd read them right. And more than once, I literally had to pause in my reading to wrap my head around an explanation, or an answer that only raised more questions. Vortex is brilliantly crafted, with a pace that is never boring.
The heart of Vortex is Jackson. If Jackson wasn't as compelling a character, as REAL a character as he is, these books wouldn't be quite as amazing. They'd be a good science fiction story with an awesome plot, but Jackson and his love for Holly makes Tempest and Vortex soar to the top of my mental "favorite books" list. Jackson reads like a real guy, with faults and good qualities that make you want to hug him, then give him a good shake. I felt so lost when he did, so happy when he did, so confused when he did. Jackson is an amazing conduit to carry emotions right to the reader, emotions I was still reeling from a few hours after finishing Vortex. I have rarely been as enamored with a character as I am with Jackson, or as proud of him at times.
Final Thought: Vortex gathers speed from the onset, hurtling toward a dizzying conclusion that literally left me rigid and with tears in my eyes. The wait for Timestorm seems infinite, and I am sure I'll be re-reading these books again in preparation for the third book. Julie Cross is a talented story-teller who knows how to pull a reader into her story and keep them there.