(Just to clarify, this is a good three stars, not a reluctant 3 stars, so maybe 3.5 is more accurate. Or 4. I don’t know, I can’t decide.) Rage Within opens three months after the earthquakes, with Aries, Michael, Mason and Clementine hiding out in Vancouver with a group of survivors. The Baggers are becoming organised, their homicidal rampage now punctuated with hunting down and rounding up the uninfected. Nobody is safe – whether it’s from the Baggers, or the threat of their own darkness inside. This time around Roberts delves deeper into the group dynamics, the tenuous balance of trust and fear that exists amongst the survivors. In a world overwhelmed by evil, the danger of betrayal looms large. Each of the characters have reason to question each other, while at the same time having to rely on them for survival. Throughout Rage Within, this fragile combination of reliance and distrust is challenged, along with the system of order and relationships that have emerged in the group. Michael’s actions in Dark Inside cause him to doubt his ability to protect others. Aries questions her role as a leader. Clementine is consumed by her vow to find her brother. And Mason knows there’s something different about him..Like Dark Inside this is a brutal, action-based novel – but Roberts has built on the charactisation in the first book, further developing each member of the core group. In this respect I found it a better book than the first. The situations and choices the characters face in the sequel are more complex, the ramifications more severe, and their actions occasionally less sympathetic. While Dark Inside introduced the characters and set up their individual journeys, Rage Within is concerned with their interactions as a unit, and how their internal conflicts not only parallel the violence that surrounds them, but threaten their relative security. A question that underpins the novel is whether the biggest danger to the group is from within. Roberts’ characters feel more fleshed out in Rage Within. Even though it’s also written in multiple points of view, the sequel has the added advantage of allowing the reader to see each character through the eyes of the others. Being able to observe from different angles allows a fuller picture of each character to emerge, particularly in how they relate to each other. I appreciated how Roberts chose to write Clementine and Aries – highlighting their individual strengths as well as their friendship. They’re both great female characters: tough, relatable and not stereotypical. (I love that Clementine is a cheerleader and yet she never reads like a trope.) Of the central four, I thought Michael was the least developed. Or rather, that his story felt the least compelling to me. (Which is probably a horrible thing to say considering what’s going on in the poor guy’s head.) On the other hand, Mason’s dilemma feels the most vital to this story. It’s his internal conflict that provides much of the unease that fuels the story. As in the first book, the plot of Rage Within is tense and fast-paced. Granted, I did see some of the climactic events coming e.g. Daniel, but these had been fairly heavily foreshadowed so I’m not sure they were supposed to be a huge surprise. That said, Roberts did throw some curveballs at the end that I was unprepared for, keeping this series wide open in terms of where it’s heading. While the premise of this series requires some suspension of belief, I think Roberts uses her concept more successfully than some other apocalyptic YA of late. The idea of the earth routinely purging itself by unleashing evil and causing human civiliation to cannibalise might sound too out there, but Robert’s balances the obvious horror with a more subtle form. In a violent, self-destructing world, she zeros in on very real and human fears, which makes this series all the more powerful.