Actual rating: 3.5I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I have been following this series from the beginning, and this latest installment was such a pleasant surprise. It was almost as if the main character had a lobotomy or has ben taken over by a much more pleasant secret twin. This was a fun, action-packed book to read, made much more enjoyable by the growing maturity of the main character, Gwen. Despite that, it still has its faults, and I felt that it lacked the oomph needed to elevate it to a truly great book.This is not a standalone. You will be hopelessly lost if you have not been keeping up with the series. In this latest installment, Logan has been in self-imposed exile, punishing himseslf for falling under the spell of the Reapers and trying to kill Gwen in the previous book. As it opens, Gwen is still trying to come to terms with her loss, and trying her best to decide how to solve the problem of Loki (sadly, not the Tom Hiddleston version), while the campus is under constant alert from potential Reaper attacks. Things transpire, and Gwen and her friends are forced to travel to the Colorado branch of Mythos Academy to find a rare flower in order to save the life of an important character. It is a trap. They know it is a trap. It is too obvious, but they have no other choice: there is no other option.I was caught complete unaware by Gwen's personality change. I have always felt that Gwen was the weakest part of this series; it's especially bad when she is the main character, and the main narrator. This is a great example of how character development...and really, just how a series can improve in general. I absolutely hated Gwen when we meet her in the previous books: she was whiny, she is self-pitying, she is a slut-shamer. I could not see, for the life of me, the attraction that Logan felt for her. Gwen was a deplorable, Mary Sue of a character.Gwen is a completely different person in this book. There is not one single instance of girl-on-girl hate, there is absolutely no slut shaming. She no longer hates people needlessly, irrationally, for having advantages that she never had. She does feel sorry for herself, sometimes (and given what she's gone through, it is completely understandable) but her Bella Swan moments are rare, and she tells herself to snap out of it as soon as Gwen realizes that she's letting herself wallow in depression.I was only going through the motions, just like I had ever since Logan had left. More than once, I found myself staring off into space, wondering where he was and what he was doing. If he was okay. If he was cold or hungry or scared or tired.If he was thinking about me.After about two minutes of that, I’d shake off my sorrow and get angry at for myself for obsessing about him. Vic was right. I really needed to quit brooding and get on with killing Reapers.*Claps* That's my girl! Gwen realizes that she has been a weak person, someone not very likeable. I love her self-recognizance; I love that she admits her faults, and that she is willing to learn and grow. She also odevelops empathy, when she sees as aspect of herself in others.The other kids looked at the girl, but nobody approached her and nobody said anything to her. Nobody gave her so much as a cheerful wave or even a polite nod. The girl pretended that she couldn’t see the other kids deliberately avoiding her, but her jaw was clenched, and her whole body was tense with anger---and pain.She reminded me of, well, me. Back when I’d first come to Mythos, I’d been that exact same girl—the one standing all alone, watching the other kids around me, hoping that someone would at least notice me.Gwen still has her spirit. She is still snarky, but I don't find it annoying. Her character growth was a breath of fresh air in this book, and it is my favorite thing about it.Logan...oh dear. Buck up, man! I just wanted to shake him and tell him to wake the hell up. I think Gwen did it better than I can.“Oh, quit feeling sorry for yourself.”Logan blinked. “Excuse me?”“You heard me,” I said, my voice growing harsh. “Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Yeah, something horrible happened to you, and the Reapers tried to turn you into Loki’s little soul puppet. But you know what, Spartan? Horrible things have happened to all of us now---and more terrible things are in store. So suck it up and get back in the fight.”Have I said how much I like the new, improved Gwen? Because I do. She is awesome in this book.The plot is good, it flows naturally, and the action scenes were mostly well written (except for one moment: what's the difference between zigging versus zagging?). There is no purple prose, the writing is on point, and no more descriptive than it needs to be: it is intended for a younger audience, and so I have absolutely no problems with the simplistic style at all.I am unhappy with the overuse of deus ex machina as a plot device in this book. Too many things happen by chance at just the right moment for it to be believable, and after awhile, it just gets annoying. I also do not like the one-dimensionality of the Reapers. They are purely evil, there is no other aspect of their personality at all. It is the same with the other characters, really, they are either good, or they are bad. It is very black and white, and aside from Logan and Gwen, and the added character of Rory, it doesn't seem like the author bothered to build up anyone's personality adequately at all. The adults are also portrayed as rather stiff and dull, and the talking sword, Vic, really, really got on my nerves.Also, enough with the baby animals, really. First we have a baby Fenris wolf, and now a baby Gryphon? Enough is enough. This ain't cuteoverload.com.If you have been following the series, I strongly recommend this book; otherwise, I don't know if I would still recomment the series to a new reader. One good book might not be enough to redeem the annoying quality of Gwen in the previous 4.