Young Adult and Trilogies goes together like peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs…the sky and the sta- you get the point. There are way too many trilogies out there to list but that doesn’t matter! Who doesn’t enjoy a … Continue reading
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Date Published: April 8, 2014
Number of Pages: 613
What’s It About?
After deceiving the rebel Chimaera army Karou has managed to seize control. After a shocking truce sees Akiva’s Misbegotten siblings align themselves with the remaining rebels the groups are forced to work together to stop the Seraphim emperor Jael procuring arms from Earth, not to mention preventing the apocalypse.
On the far side of Eretz the Queen of the reclusive Stelian clan sets out with a small group to find – and kill – the unknown magus stealing their power.
And on Earth as the invading angels shock and awe humanity a young scientist discovers a truth that has the ability to destroy not just the world but every and all universes.
Beginning with the reaction to Jael’s army of Seraphim on Earth interspersed with flashes to Eretz and the integration of Akiva’s Misbegotten brothers and sisters with Karou’s’ Chimaera rebels the tension is intense. Palpable. The story takes off at lightening speed moving between character viewpoints – some like Karou & Akiva who we’ve come to know so well and others we’ve been dying to hear from (Liraz she has a soul! Who knew?) Taylor also introduces a knew character in the form of doctorate student Eliza Jones. At first Eliza’s story seems disruptive – every time the story shifts from Eretz and back to Earth and the discovery of the bodies in the pit you find yourself cursing the lack of Karou and Akiva. Eliza’s story though becomes more and more riveting and mysterious, so in tune with the overall story you eventually find yourself desperate for more.
The action is acute and never missing for too long – in fact the story plays out almost like a film with the perfect balance of conflict, fighting, strategizing and romance (and not just from Akiva and Karou.)
This exemplary melding of themes, genres and stories comes down to one thing – Laini Taylor is a genius. Her ability to seamlessly weave a multitude of stories together in perfect harmony is something to fawn over. Her ability to ensure that each of those stories is told to its fullest, given its dues and serves a purpose is awe inspiring. Like J.K. Rowling, Taylor planted seeds to her story’s ending at the very beginning, and like J.K. Rowling she didn’t disappoint in allowing those seeds to grow and bloom into a nearly perfect ending. This final chapter in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy was well worth the wait. Stirring, dramatic, surprising and heartfelt Taylor managed to maintain the realities of the worlds she created while leaving readers happy and, interestingly enough, salivating for more. (Is it possible? Dare one hope?)
From the impending threat of apocalyptic doom spanning two worlds, to the revelation about the vile fallen angel Razgut’s previous life, to the uncloaking of the mysterious – and supremely powerful – Stelians, to the sweet romance of humans Mik and Zuzana and the epic, heartrending, soul searing love story of Karou and Akiva not to mention the life threatening deception Karou and Ziri are trying to pull off – each story plays a role, each story connects somehow, magnificently to another and another, spinning an ending that makes for a book you can’t possibly put down.
Let’s just take a minute to discuss the unbelievable beauty of Taylor’s prose – it is equal parts poetic, fluid and colourful without ever being over the top. It’s nearly impossible not to speed through her stories simply because her writing is so easy. Not easy in the sense that it’s “dumbed down” because it’s not (how can it be when you’re throwing out words like “cartilaginous”? Amirit?) Easy in that it flows, it’s melodic. It’s stunning.
Karou & Akiva’s Epic Love Story
I hate anyone who likens their story to Romeo and Juliet. Hate. Their story is uniquely their own. Sure they’ve got the whole star-crossed lovers deal but their strength, their determination to succeed, their inability to ever truly lose each other is something altogether different. Even when in Days of Blood & Starlight Karou’s anger blinded her (or attempted to) love for Akiva it was there, tangible, and weighing heavily on everything she did. In Dreams of Gods & Monsters Karou accepts this love, realizing that in denying it she’s weakening herself by denying her right to her own happiness. Which is incredibly profound and moving. But what truly solidifies this couple at the top echelon of YA romantic couples is that they are always willing to sacrifice their own happiness to save others and most importantly – they’re both acceptance of this fact in each other. Seriously how much more romantic can this be.
Shout Out to a Great Supporting Cast
No review of this final book would be complete without a nod to the colourful cast of characters littered throughout the series and this final chapter. Zuzana and Mik are a given as the best representations of what being colour blind really means – it’s presented simply in their easy acceptance of both the Chimaera and Seraphim, their desire to help both. Ziri and Liraz – opposites attracting so perfectly. The disfigured, ruthless Jael and the snivelling Razgut, both of whom you can’t help but love to despise and yet feel sorry for in the strangest way possible. And the even smaller players – The Shadows that Live, Virko, Nightingale et al. Each character, regardless how minute their part in the story is so wonderfully designed, so full and multi dimensional you want to know each and every one of their stories.
Dreams of Gods & Monsters the final book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is a grand and heroic ending – brimming with intellect, heart and romance, it offers the perfect closure to a riveting story while not fully closing the door on a world overflowing with possibility. 5/5
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins imprint)
Date Published: October 22, 2013
Number of Pages: 526
After revealing the truth about the society in which she lives, Tris Prior finally escapes to the world beyond the fence only to learn that despite everything she thought she’d discovered, things are still not quite what they seem.
That seems like the vaguest possible description for this book and there’s good reason for that. Let me start by saying I was beyond excited to read this last book in Roth’s series, I loved Divergent and Insurgent and because I’m a giant nerd I may or may not have counted down the days to Allegiant’s publication. I prepared myself for the usual two to three days of ignoring everything in life but the book and devouring it as I’ve done in the past. But that didn’t quite happen. I don’t want to say that I didn’t like the book because that’s not true. I’m glad to have experienced the completion of Tris’ story, I’m happy that Veronica Roth took some chances and made some stylistic changes (namely the dual perspectives between Tris and Four/Tobias) but I can’t help but feel that this final part of the story lacked the ingenuity and ease of the first two. To be blunt, it was a little all over the place.
The dual perspectives was a great add-on to the story mostly because Four is a character that you want to know more about. He’s just as integral to the story as Tris and it was nice to see his point of view because it helps to put things into perspective. It also makes you, as the reader, question whether Tris is always right. I liked that. Instead of having us blindly follow Tris, Roth gave us reason to doubt and question her motives – adding a level of complexity to the story that wasn’t there before.
Tris and Four
I love the relationship between these two characters. I love that they are both so flawed and that they are constantly making mistakes but that they always find their way back to each other. I found it incredibly touching when Tris (in chapter 36) comes to the realization about relationships and having to forgive over and over but that it is a choice you make. I thought it was an incredible show of vulnerability and the most human she appears in this last portion of the story.
*SPOILER* Do not continue to read if you don’t want to know how it ends
There’s been a lot of disdain, incredulity and rage all over the net about Roth’s decision to kill Tris. I have to say I don’t know why – the character always had a SUPER death wish. I mean in a way it was kind of her major character flaw. Tris Prior definitely suffered from a Messiah complex. In her attempts to always do what was right, to save other’s from the evils around them she was always willing to make the “ultimate sacrifice.” I mean in Insurgent the girl willingly allows herself to be led to her imminent death. I don’t even know how many times she ends up being shot through the series but it’s a lot. Her death was pretty much always in the works. It was clear she was not going to get her happily ever after. And I’m okay with that.
What I’m not okay with is the somewhat of a hot mess Allegiant turns into. I desperately want to love this final book. And though I commend Roth for going against the grain, for not being afraid to kill off her protagonist (a character whom no doubt she loved dearly) the impact of Tris’ death does not hold the same weight as say Dumbledore’s in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The major difference being that when it came to Dumbledore’s death Rowling had a point – it was part euthanasia but it was also integral to maintaining Snape’s role as Voldemort’s right-hand man and ultimately ensuring Harry’s success in defeating He Who Must Not Be Named.
In comparison Tris’ death seems almost unnecessary and sloppy. First – Tris is more than just a soldier, she’s a leader, a rebel and a revolutionary, and despite her anxiety about guns when it came time for her to get into the weapons room I can’t possibly believe she would have left her gun behind, regardless of whether or not she thought the possibility of encountering someone in the room was slim to none. The fact is there was still a chance. And Tris is not a character who leaves things to chance. Secondly, and more importantly, prior to this whole “sacrificial lamb” change of pace did she not go on about wanting to live? About recognizing the importance of life and fighting for a way of life that was free from division and autocrats? What purpose did that diatribe serve? Finally, I don’t care how much she loves her brother, he aided and abetted in leading her to her death. And he did so with little remorse. He even acknowledges that his willingness to sacrifice himself (to break into the weapons room) was because of his guilt not because of his love for her or anyone. (Perhaps this is just an example of my harsh stance on forgiveness for people who try to kill you.)
No doubt there’s a contingency of fans out there who are truly upset that Roth killed her main character solely because that’s kind of a big taboo in these types of stories. But I like to think that there’s an even larger group of fans out there who recognize the major holes in Tris’ “sacrifice” – namely that it wasn’t one. The fact is her death was poorly executed. Though I don’t think Roth’s intention was shock value, I think her point was muddled in its development.
Sacrifice vs. Selflessness
There has also been a lot of debate about sacrifice vs. selflessness and whether Roth confused the two. I don’t think so – that Tris was certain she could survive the death serum suggests she wasn’t really being sacrificial. That she in fact did survive it only to be shot by David proves that she wasn’t making a sacrifice, she was just being Tris and taking another risk. Was she being selfless? I think so. Was she intentionally sacrificing herself? No, not at all. She knew she could survive the death serum. And she did. But I reiterate, why would she leave her gun behind? Is it possible that a part of her wanted this ending? I wouldn’t blame her if you know, she was just tired of everything. She’s only sixteen and look at what her life has been.
Where I think some creative liberties were taken when it comes to selflessness is with Evelyn. It’s strange that a character who was so hard, so determined to get her way, not afraid of using the death serum on her own people to maintain control of the city would just back down from ruling because her son promises her a relationship. That’s a little far flung. Talk about a deus ex machina. It’s weird that Roth didn’t blink an eye at killing off her protagonist but stopped short of all out war when it came to the city Tris was trying to save. It was all a little too easy.
I kept expecting that Tris would eventually show up, like it was a big ruse (for what purpose I don’t know) but still, when the epilogue started two and a half years after her death I had no clue what to expect. That Roth demonstrated that Tris’ death wasn’t in vain was important and needed. It was also great to see how the others went on to survive without her and make lives for themselves in the “new” Chicago. I also felt incredibly sad for Four. There’s a character who’s life is not one you would like to experience. If anything it was the effect that Tris’ death has on Tobias that got to me. I always felt that she couldn’t make it to the stories end. That any other life would seem out of place and unnatural for her. But Four has suffered and lost so much, it’s heartbreaking to think that after everything he has to lose her too.
That the final thoughts in the book come from him and from a place of hope within him is comforting for any fan who invested in Tobias and were heart broken at all he has lost.
Of the three books in the Divergent series Allegiant is by far my least favourite. Though I commend Roth for making hard choices and going against what was expected I can’t help but feel that the overall point of the story gets lost in a lot of excess, that there are too many holes and most importantly that she didn’t go far enough to make the loss of Tris have a strong enough purpose.
Despite all the criticism Roth is an exciting writer and this series is a great addition to the YA Dystopian canon – I look forward to whatever she comes up with next because really she can only get better.
(Also it’s quite possible six months from now when I sit down to re-read this my thoughts will completely change, in which case I promise to acknowledge that fact.)
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Date Published: 6 November 2012
Number of Pages: 513 (Hard Cover)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The second book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Days of Blood and Starlight picks up after heroine Karou has left earth and her Seraphim lover Akiva to head into Eretz with the fallen angel Razgut in search of her Chimaera family.
This book quickly moves the story away from the mystery of Karou, instead delving deeply into the world of Eretz and the long-standing war between the Seraphim and Chimaera. Taylor’s choice to bring in not only new characters separated from the entwined story of Karou and Akiva – specifically the Chimaera children Sarazal, Sveeva but to focus on the relationships between Karou and the people from her past as Madrigal (specifically Thiago and Ziri) as well as Akiva’s relationship with his brother and sister makes for a nice, if somewhat jarring change of pace. Jarring in that if you go in expecting this book to be as flowery (in a good way) and dreamy as DOSAB you’ll be disappointed.
Days of Blood and Starlight brings the reader directly into the troubles of Eretz, the aftermath of the bloodshed and destruction of the Chimaera capital Loramendi and the beginning of the new rebellion. It delves into the politics of the Seraphim (introducing us to the Seraph king (and Akiva’s father) Joram and his brother – Jael) and those of the Chimaera, specifically what happened to the old leaders and the goings on of the new rebel force lead by Thiago.
What’s most interesting is to see the melding of Karou/Madrigal and how both of her selves manage to coexist. Karou is a consistent, charismatic and likeable lead character. Watching her struggle with the burden of resurrection, the loss of her family and the love and hate she feels for Akiva can be riveting. She is so complete – yet so untouchable. One of the minor downfalls of this book is that with the new storylines there’s far less of Karou than in DOSMB.
The upside is that there is more Akiva – yet, even with a bigger part he somehow remains a relatively mysterious character. With this second book the hope was that more of Akiva would be revealed, but rather it’s much the same – a lot of pining for Karou and a desire for change. What would have been better is if we saw him focus on better developing his magic, searching for his mother and the break away Stelian Seraphim. It’s not until the final few chapters that we actually see Akiva put anything of substance in motion. (Though it is worth the wait.)
The slight twist towards the end and the introduction of Jael as the real threat to both the Chimaera and Seraphim was actually a nice – if unexpected – change of pace. And Zuzanna and Mik’s discovery of Karou’s “monster castle” adds some much needy lightness to a story that oozes misery (in a good way).
What makes this book (and its predecessor) so enjoyable is Taylor’s writing. It’s lush and poetic without being pretentious. It draws you in and paints such a vivid picture of the world and characters she’s created you can taste it. In short Taylor’s writing is visceral – she makes you care. And in doing so you become so invested that you can’t help but feel slightly bitter that you have to wait another year (at least) for the final chapter.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a strong follow up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Taylor continues to create a fantasy world with both characters and plots a readers will care about.
If you haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone you really should read it first before checking out Days of Blood and Starlight, both make great reads.
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Random House
Date Published: August 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 336
The much-anticipated prequel to James Dashner’s The Maze Runner trilogy – The Kill Order – takes place before Thomas and the Gladers escape the maze and take on WICKED. After sun flares hit the earth, destroying civilization as we know it and what’s left of humanity falls victim to a virus unlike any ever seen before friends Mark and Trina band together with a group of fellow survivors to learn to stay alive in this new world and find a cure for the fast, mutating disease that turns those infected into rage filled lunatics.
Though set in the same world as the The Maze Runner trilogy The Kill Order works both as a prequel and a stand-alone novel. For those who have read the trilogy it’s nice to get a little more insight into what led the Gladers to the maze to begin with, but for someone not at all versed in this world The Kill Order still makes sense and entertains.
The story begins within a settlement of survivors who have banded together to create a makeshift community. This is where we are introduced to our cast of characters. After the initial set up we are led back in time to when the sun flares first hit as seen through our protagonist Mark’s memories.
As frustrating as it is I really like that Dashner never answers everything, or gives us complete insight into just how awful the sun flares were. We know they’re bad, we know that people have basically been melted and what not, but somehow Dashner manages to give us only a snippet of the devastation caused, which somehow makes it so much worse. Mark’s flashbacks to when this catastrophic event happens and being in the underground really helped to build the feelings of foreboding and dread that Dashner perfected in The Maze Runner trilogy.
As far as characters go I don’t know that I liked anyone in The Kill Order as much as I did the Gladers from the Maze. As the main protagonist Mark (especially when compared to Thomas) is a bit of – I don’t want to say a pansy – but he’s a little whiny. He doesn’t have the same sense of inner strength and know-how that Thomas seemed to possess – he lacks confidence. On the flip side Alec as the pseudo leader/father figure despite being gruff and kind of curmudgeonly was by far the most likeable character. He seemed to have the most feeling.
It doesn’t really matter that the characters weren’t as enthralling as those in the original series because this book is very story driven. The sequence of events and the race against time are what make The Kill Order enjoyable. Once the Flare hits and it’s a given the group will eventually lose their minds getting Deedee (as the only one seemingly immune to the disease) to safety heightens both character need and tension within the story.
However as suspenseful as the story is a lot of the events seemed crazy and in some weird ways unnecessarily dangerous and/or lacking insight – Mark and Alec leaving Trina, Lana and Deedee in the forest while they investigate the creepy singing – why? Clearly that was not going to end well. Breaking in to the underground bunker. Jumping on the Berg in the first place when you know that the people on it are currently shooting, at random, civilians with darts that seem to kill on impact. But in retrospect I like to think the method behind the madness of these events was to offer a kind of duality – to demonstrate the subtlety of the diseases’ evolution and to really hammer home this idea that despite the initial reactions of immediate death or immediate crazy – then death, the truly scary element to this new world is the Flare’s quick progression to a slow and scary descent that begins with poor choice and ultimately ends with outright lunacy.
What really worked is the brutality of this world. The way people almost instantly revert to base, animal instincts. From the flashbacks to life in the Lincoln building and the marauding couple to the crazy cultist (who granted were in fact infected by the Flare but none-the-less demonstrated brutality that I’m going to go out on a limb here and just say was instinctual to begin with.) Even Mark demonstrates that brutality when fighting. The progression to Crazy Town is steep and raw but makes you wonder, even without the Flare how cruel and evil this post sun flare world could have become.
I found the ending both poignant and distressing – when Mark and Alec finally reunite with Trina, Lana and Deedee the infection has taken over so fully that there really and very obviously is no hope left for anyone but Deedee. Lana’s execution style like death and the fact that Trina’s so far gone she can’t even remember Mark were truly sad moments in a book so packed with action that sometimes the human element of the story gets a little lost. I found it quite courageous that despite knowing the loss of his sanity is imminent Mark pushed himself to save a little girl and that in fact that last final act was the best demonstration of his character (and is why I can’t call him a pansy, even though I clearly want to.)
The Theresa Connection
Now if you’ve read my previous review on The Maze Runner series you’ll know that I absolutely hated the character of Theresa, and as evil as it makes me seem was glad when she met an untimely end. That being said I really enjoyed that Dashner placed that one small connection between the Gladers and this origin story by alluding to the fact that “Deedee” was in fact “Theresa”. What can I say? I love a good tie-in.
Overall as far as prequel’s go I really enjoyed The Kill Order, I like that it can act as a stand alone novel but that it also ties in to what is a great series. Dashner manages to answer questions that were left open in his original series while still maintaining a lot of the mystery and suspense he created in The Maze Runner trilogy.
The Maze Runner Trilogy: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure
Author: James Dashner
Date Published: October 2009, 2010, 2011
Publisher: Random House
This review encompasses the entire Maze Runner Trilogy because quite frankly once I started the series I couldn’t stop. I’m a big fan of series’ to begin with but I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this series as much as I did because it’s a little more science fiction based than I’m used to but regardless.
The Maze Runner
What’s it about?
This is the story of a teenager named Thomas who finds himself sent to an unknown location where he joins a group of castaway boys trapped in a seemingly unsolvable maze. As Thomas learns the ropes about life in their safe have, known as the Glade, and the threats that live within the maze he realizes he was sent there for a purpose – to be one of the runners whose job is to crack the mazes mystery and lead the Gladers to their freedom.
The first book in James Dashner’s series The Maze Runner has got to be one of the most suspenseful and creepy books I’ve read in a while. Maybe I have an overactive imagination but I found this first book unbelievably compelling. I wanted to race through it and at the same time it built in me such an intense feeling of foreboding and worry that I constantly felt as though I was on the verge of an anxiety attack. It was kind of awesome.
From the very beginning when Thomas wakes up in the box with no memory of who he is beyond his name and is pulled into the Glade I was intrigued. The fact that the protagonist was introduced in such a way that you already knew he was in danger but didn’t know why or what from was captivating. Furthermore he’s introduced into a totally foreign landscape and is greeted by what develops into a great cast of supporting characters. The main Gladers (namely Alby, Newt, Minho, Chuck, Gally and Frypan,) were given such distinct and vibrant characterization despite the size of their roles. In a weird way it was like a more grown up and far less happy Our Gang reunion – for those out there not up on their obscure references, AKA The Little Rascals – with strangely sadistic punishments (that scene with Ben being hung out in the maze and left for the Grievers – kind of harsh considering the Gladers are perfectly aware of how crazy the Griever stings can make a person, it was very Lord of the Flies.) With the introduction of Theresa the cast of characters was made complete. I have to say I wasn’t a big fan of Theresa – I found her to be a bit of a know-it-all and I kind of hated the spell she seemed to have Thomas under. Thomas on the other hand is really fascinating as the lead character. Despite the lack of a memory he seems so complete and self-possessed. You know just from the way he reacts to the maze and the entire situation to begin with that he’ll eventually be the leader, and you kind of can’t wait for that to happen.
The weird lingo was a little off putting, but if I’m being totally honest here by the time I finished the third book I found myself calling people ‘shuck faces’ and saying ‘good that’, it was not comfortable.
What I loved most about this book was the maze itself because it’s so unusual that the antagonist in a book is a thing as opposed to a person and really throughout this series – despite the whole WICKED thing (see below) the maze acts as the first big “bad guy” and it’s quite the doozy. The vines, the moving walls, the apparently never ending-ness of the whole thing, I’m shocked none of the characters began to suffer from severe agoraphobia. Couple the seeming impossibility of solving the puzzle with the addition of the Grievers and suddenly the craziness and creepiness of the entire situation gets kicked into high gear. That being said I found the idea of the Grievers much creepier when I didn’t really know what they were, there’s something about the idea of massive slug-like creepy crawlies that despite turning my stomach (because I think of the gelatinous quality of their bodies) makes them kind of comical. (That could just be my incredibly strange sense of humour coming into play here.) But I guess I feel that the threat of something is always more enticing then the actual knowledge of what it is. And it’s that quality that makes The Maze Runner so enthralling. You’re afraid to learn what’s going on or what’s going to happen next but you have to know. I mean how creepy is the maze? Pretty creepy. But how much creepier does it become when you know that the walls move and there’s insane monsters that howl in the night waiting out there to poke you with their crazy juice or just flat out eat you? Quite frankly I’m kind of afraid of ever going to a garden party out of fear there may be one of those hedge mazes.
When things start to go bad – the doors not closing, the lights no longer simulating day and night – the threat from the grievers becoming so heightened I couldn’t help but find it almost deliciously sadistic that they would be programmed to take one Glader every night until no one’s left. The threat of death and the need to escape became palpable. You could taste their fear. I loved every second of it.
As far as endings go for a book I found The Maze Runner’s to be pretty rad. After so much build up everything just comes crashing down at once. It was organized chaos, the puzzle was solved but that didn’t mean they were in the clear. Once everyone’s left the maze the death of Chuck at the hands of Gally is almost overwhelming. I mean really? After all of that? REALLY? Not cool. (But cool.) And of course everything’s set up to lead in to the second book.
The Scorch Trials
After escaping the maze and being rescued from WICKED the Gladers wake up to discover that they’re still very much in danger and in fact are all infected with a life threatening disease known as the Flare. They learn that WICKED (World in Catastrophe Killzone Experiment Department – possibly the coolest acronym ever) is testing them in order to study their brains, which in turn will help them to find a cure for the Flare. The Gladers are told if they follow orders and do their best to succeed the trials they will be provided with the cure.
Initially after reading The Scorch Trials I wasn’t too sure I liked where things were going. The threat of imminent death is still very much alive but this second book in the series seemed to lack some of the intense, anxiety inducing, suspense The Maze Runner built in me.
That being said in retrospect I’ve grown to really appreciate this second book if not for the simple fact that I really loved Thomas’ character development and that more concrete answers are provided. I also really love the concept of the Flare. Which, I know, kind of weird, but it was like a massive outbreak of Syphilis (cause it can make you go crazy while eating your brain, so really the Flare was in fact just outrageous syphilis, only you didn’t catch it the fun way…so to speak. Not that anyone should want to catch syphilis. This line of discussion has really gone downhill…) and I was really pleased that the Cranks were Cranks and not in fact Zombies by another name because I really hate that (I’m looking at you Beautiful Creatures with your “Casters”. Please there damn witches and you know it.) The fact that this new information came from a man that would go on to be called Rat Face was also a great way to further push the idea of ‘adult bad, teenager good’ that was kind of seeding in the first book.
*A note on Rat Face – the fact that they just kept referring to him as Rat Face was a great reminder that despite everything, these were still teenagers and that teenagers are awesome at being inadvertently funny while being rude.
I also loved that the Flare though developed by some random government and then spread to the masses by the new post-apocalyptic government is then used by the government as a means of abusing highly intelligent teenagers by putting them through a series of torturous trials to determine why their brains are superior to others and therefore capable of fighting the worst disease known to mankind. Not to mention that lovely bit of dramatic irony when Thomas realizes that he in fact played a much bigger role in the whole thing than initially believed.
So what else really worked in this second story? Theresa as a turncoat – I was glad that Thomas was finally turned off her because she was awful. Kind of self-righteous which was weird because SHE HAS NO IDEA WHO SHE IS. The lightning storm of doom – super cool concept that really helped play up the devastation caused by the sun flares. Minho as the ‘leader’ – I really love this guy, he’s the right amount of crazy to play off Newt and Thomas. And the introduction of Brenda and Jorge, who if we’re being honest with ourselves dear readers, we knew were planted by WICKED, but Brenda seemed like such a better choice than Theresa it didn’t really matter.
You know what I found had me scratching my head? The metal ball that ate your face (what the hell?) And the weird robot things and what I like to refer to as the ‘Robot Battle of Book 2’. I can’t even be bothered to discuss that weirdness. I don’t know how necessary that really was apart from I guess killing off extra bodies.
The Death Cure
The final book in Dashner’s trilogy, The Death Cure encompasses the full on rebellion led by Thomas, Minho and Newt against WICKED. After discovering that most of the Gladers (excluding a few placebo’s, including poor Newt) are in fact immune to the Flare, the Gladers are given the choice to have their memories reinstated. Deciding they know longer cared to know about their pasts Minho, Newt and Thomas refuse only to learn they in fact don’t really have a choice in the situation. Eventually, with the help of Brenda and Jorge they manage to escape WICKED headquarters and head to Denver with the hope of finding the other Gladers and taking down WICKED once and for all.
Often in a trilogy I find myself super disappointed with the last book (ex. Twilight – “Hey guys, don’t worry I’ll save you with my giant thought bubble!”) But I really enjoyed The Death Cure, to begin with who doesn’t love rebellion? Especially when said rebellion is led by a group of brainiac ruffians against their government? I was glad that the traitorous Gally reemerged. I was glad Theresa was once more separated from the main group.
I thought it was strange that they’d all refuse to have their memories reinstated, though I understood the argument behind it. I felt frustrated however because I wanted more answers.
I liked that the Gladers were kind of reintroduced into ‘civilized society’ and that despite having escaped WICKED continued to exert control over them. And I loved that in the end Thomas – who was in a way the catalyst for the whole series of events – had to go back and face the Rat Man.
The decline and death of Newt was rough and both heartbreaking and comforting – knowing in the end he was put out of his misery, but sincerely wishing he hadn’t been one of the few actually infected (why not Theresa? I know, I know it’s irrational and unhealthy to hate a character in a book so much. But I do!)
The big thing for me was the ending because I was kind of disappointed that with all the bureaucracy and all the power we’re consistently told WICKED possesses the survivors get their bit of paradise to create a new, more evolved race. I wanted an Orwellian ending. I wanted 1984, I wanted to be thoroughly shocked and disgusted when in the end Thomas just let them have his brain, or negotiated himself into a lobotomy or instead sacrificed a friend (*cough Minho cough*) for the final stage. Is that wrong? Is it wrong that I wanted the hero to lose? Because I kind of totally did. I wanted the dystopia of this world to remain because after all Thomas was part of the reason the others ended up in the maze and why they were forced through the Scorch Trials.
Thomas was the brains behind the operation. Thomas is ultimately responsible for the deaths of Chuck and Newt and Theresa and however many others. Despite the fact that I really liked Thomas (except for that strange quality of being easily led by whatever lady was around him) he kind of didn’t deserve a chance at living in Utopia. Or maybe I’m just a really morbid person.
A quick note on Chancellor Paige – am I the only one who found her kind of, superfluous? Also her showing up at the end after really only being a face on a poster and a voice in a memo was kind of a glaring case of the deus ex machina – she was a giant cop out. Which is fine. I still think the series was awesome. But I can’t help but feel that because Dashner decided Thomas would get his happy ending he had to give him such a big out. He basically had to let the God of this Flare infested world save the day which I definitely didn’t see coming, so good on the whole surprise thing, but yeah kind of a cop out.
Regardless The Maze Runner series is definitely worth a read; it has great characterization, a strong story (with an awesome back story, even if it’s only told in pieces) and enough energy and suspense to entertain. In a book world that is currently overflowing in dystopian teenage sagas the Maze Runner trilogy is definitely a standout and one I highly recommend.
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: 19 March, 2013
Number of Pages: 438 (Hard Cover)
*Spoilers ahead, if you have not read Clockwork Princess but plan to, don’t read this review until you finish the book.*
Before I can lay critique to the final book in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy I have to say going into Clockwork Princess I was not as big a fan of this series as I am of The Mortal Instruments. Though I enjoyed Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince they didn’t resonate with me the same way The Mortal Instruments has. However, Clockwork Princess has completely changed my mind on the series. This final chapter (that epilogue!) not only entertained me but moved me as well.
What’s it about?
Clockwork Princess picks up a little after the events in Clockwork Prince, Jem and Tessa are preparing for their upcoming wedding, Charlotte and Henry the arrival of their baby and Will is dealing with his kid sister Cecily and well, brooding over Tessa, and the Magister is still at large and his plan for Tessa yet to be revealed has everyone on edge.
Clare takes us fairly quickly into the action of the Shadowhunting world – moving the story along smoothly and efficiently. Gabriel Lightwood’s revelation about his father’s descent into madness and transformation into a giant worm (which is both gross but humorous) and the message of The Infernal Devices sets things in motion, ultimately leading to an attack on the institute by Mortmain’s steel army (and Mrs. Black!) where Tessa is kidnapped and of all people Jessamine (who only just returned, literally) reveals to Will the Magister’s whereabouts.
In between all the action the story plays out as both a Gothic Romance (Byronic hero and all) and a comedy of manners – which is a good thing, the love triangle between Jem, Tessa and Will is so heavy and intense that the bits of comedy scattered throughout provide a well needed cathartic release.
The letters between Consul Wayland and the Lightwood brothers and Gideon’s ever-blossoming love for Sophie play out along the lines of a Whycherly play in that it’s all affected politeness and scheming and manipulation but in an absolutely fun and enjoyable manner (that first letter to Consul Wayland – priceless). And the “Great Scone Debacle” was really, well, adorable.
The race to save Tessa as Jem wastes away and ultimately the final show down had all the elements of the Shadowhunter world that make Clare’s novels so enticing.
But of course (Mortmain and his Infernal Devices be damned) the real story is the triangle that is Jem, Tessa and Will. It’s exhausting and draining and exciting and suspenseful and completely sad all at once. It’s the stuff good love stories are made of.
Quite frankly I fear the brilliance of Clare’s story will be lost on a lot of people who will focus too much on the fantasy aspect of the world she’s created (which clearly is awesome). But really, if you were to take away all the ‘otherness’ of this story – the Shadowhunters, the demons, the magic, a crazy man creating crazy demon powered robots (yes I went there, I called them robots) – it’s really just an examination on love. And not just romantic love – Clare explores the love between siblings, caregiver and receiver and friends – as so epically written in the story of Will and Jem.
But it all boils down to the love triangle. Generally these types of story are so black and white – there’s the good one and the eternally flawed one, and the one in the middle must choose between what’s easy and what’s difficult, perfection or imperfection. But in the case of Jem, Tessa and Will everything’s kind of laid out on the table from the get go. We know what Jem’s flaw is, we know why Will behaves as he does and we know Tessa is something other than just a girl – and somehow it makes the whole thing so much more intense. Neither Jem nor Will is perfect; the question is who’s perfect for Tessa.
From the beginning I was always team Will – Jem was nice and kind and patient and sweet and probably the safer choice in that he didn’t appear to be an emotional mess, but the guy was an addict marked for death. I mean really, I couldn’t help but feel how unbelievably selfish Jem was being in asking Tessa to marry him knowing he would be dead sooner rather than later. I admit I was rooting for Will. Though about a quarter of my way through the book I actually started to think that maybe, just maybe no one would end up with Tessa. (My alternate ending being the death of Jem and Will joining the Silent Brothers which let’s be honest, would have really played into the Gothic theme and would have been devastating for fan girls and boys everywhere. But really who doesn’t love a good tragedy?) When it was revealed that Jem had in fact joined the Silent Brothers and he said his farewells to both Tessa and Will the sixteen-year-old girl in me swooned because I knew Tessa would now end up with Will. And I felt like Will deserved her. He gave up so much to protect those he loved, this was his reward, it was what he was owed – a lifetime of love and happiness. And though it was made clear that Tessa loved Jem as much as she loved Will – to me it always seemed like Will was the right fit. The one who would make her live, make her experience life in a way she may not have thought possible.
But then I got to thinking – the fact that Jem would so unselfishly renounce true love for the happiness of his friend, his Parabatai – told me two things: Jem was really as pure and kind as everyone believed and that theirs (Will and Jem) is the true love story, each willing to forsake their own happiness to spare the other heartache.
Which makes for a nice change. Often “brotherly love” is explored jokingly, all ‘bro code’ and no heart. Clare subverts that ideal and offers a truly tender examination of male friendship and love. And in doing so the reader understand perfectly how Tessa could fall in love with both men.
The Epic Epilogue
Going into the epilogue I was expecting a tie-in to Jace as the last of the Herondale’s, maybe meeting Tessa or having brother Zachariah (who we now know with certainty is Jem) tell him about the family he never knew. Instead Clare totally destroyed my heart with Tessa’s walk down memory lane of her life with Will, and more specifically his death.
I couldn’t help but be moved at the final image of Will’s life with Jem on one side and Tessa on the other. And I love the idea of Jem playing his feelings, his experiences – singular and shared – through his violin. Something about the way it’s described just kind of pulls you in, it becomes so visceral and tangible. The brief images that are invoked to describe Tessa and Will’s life together – and how despite the rules around the Silent Brothers Will consistently worked to incorporate Jem into their lives, were lovely and touching.
And only adding to the bittersweet reality of Tessa’s life, the fact that after so many years, so much patience and determination Jem managed to overcome what stood in his way and offer Tessa a second chance at the life she could have had with him kind of destroyed my heart. (Is it weird that part of me felt – I don’t know, fear maybe, that in going off with Jem it meant it negated Tessa’s love for Will? I don’t think for a minute that’s what Clare was suggesting; I guess I just really love Will…)
But Clare manages to please both team Jem and team Will while at the same time offering a beautiful, bittersweet ending that was really and truly quite unexpected and exceptionally moving. And one that stayed true to the story.
The whole steam punk/Gothic vibe, the allusions and subtle comparisons to A Tale of Two Cities (Will as Sidney Carton, pfffft not even), and all the love stories makes this third and final book in The Infernal Devices, in my humble opinion, the best of the bunch.
I highly recommend reading the entire series, the lead up to this final book is worth the suspense.