by Caragh M. O'Brien
Birthmarked trilogy; book III
Another super long overdue review in which I, again, apologize profusely for its lateness.
**THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 AND 2** I will try my best to keep it spoiler-free and vague, but some parts can't be avoided
After defying the ruthless Enclave, surviving the wasteland, and upending the rigid matriarchy of Sylum, Gaia Stone now faces her biggest challenge ever. She must lead the people of Sylum back to the Enclave and persuade the Protectorat to grant them refuge from the wasteland. In Gaia's absence, the Enclave has grown more cruel, more desperate to experiment on mothers from outside the wall, and now the stakes of cooperating or rebelling have never been higher. Is Gaia ready, as a leader, to sacrifice what--or whom--she loves most?
My Expectations: high, Prized totally surprised me by how different but great it was
Delivery: it was good, but not great
Oh gosh, the series is over :( I'm always shocked when I actually finish a series because god know how bad I am and that. It's been a rocky road and of the three... Promised was my least favourite (and Birthmarked was my favourite). However, let's not ignore the merit Promised deserves.
Here's the thing: I never know where O'Brien is going to take me next for the series. Everything in book two (Prized) was a surprise, so I knew better than to predict the finale, and what actually ended up happening was a pleasant surprise. I can honestly say I liked the novel, but I don't love it. With all the build-up and development of Gaia and Leon, I found the romance lacking in this instalment. The plot was also dragging and there were a few too many minor characters that made the book 'messy'. It felt like the author was pressured to have all the characters mentioned previously play a large role, but it just ended up with too many cooks in the kitchen.
Ohh, but one thing I adored-- the villain. What a fabulous villain: someone I could empathize with, morally sound yet totally twisted in his own way... oh just beautiful.
Promised is definitely a book that makes you think, and I applaud O'Brien for "going there" with her themes and ideas. It made me question and mentally decipher my own ideas (and it makes for a fantastic discussion book, by the way) because there's never just one way to look at an issue, O'Brien fully reveals all the shades of gray and moral ambiguity is aplenty in the novel. And it's not just for one main theme, I felt every decision Gaia made could be questioned over and over (poor Gaia) which made the novel interesting. There's this one scene near the end of the book when something is taken from Gaia that actually made me feel physically sick and gave me the shivers... disturbing, shocking.. wow.
Overall, I enjoyed the finale but it felt the series never reclaimed the fire it had with the first book, Birthmarked*. The ideas and foundations were laudable but the execution was lacking, which led to character mishaps and a messy plot. There were parts I loved and parts I didn't, but alas, in the end the series is worth it.
Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable
Recommended for: people who enjoyed this series, and I would recommend this series to like, anybody. See if you like it.
7.8/10 - because I really liked the themes and the villain, but I was less of a fan of the characters and plot. There's so much more that could have happened that would have made the series end with triumphant resonance but it kind of feels like the third book faded away (despite an exciting climax). I wanted more excitement and more enjoyable romance, and while the book is good, I didn't find myself falling head over heels for it.
*I actually lent Birthmarked to my friend and she loved it- it makes a fabulous Christmas present, I'd say.
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