First Lines: There was no warning. One moment he was asleep, and the next he was being rushed through the darkness by people he didn’t know.
I checked this book out a few weeks before quarantine started and honestly…I wanted to read it but I also didn’t. Based on how the previous two books went, I knew it was going to be a political and social commentary on our world. And in the midst of everything, that wasn’t the “escape” I wanted. But I knew that, with my state being one of many reopening, the library was going to want this back. It was now or never.
*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*
It’s been three years since Citra and Rowan disappeared, presumed dead like so many others caught in a vengeful plot. It’s been three years since Scythe Goddard came into power. And it’s been three years since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone except unremarkable Grayson Tolliver. The world has changed…but is it too late to save it?
It’s been a good while since I read Thunderhead and I was worried I wouldn’t remember much of the minute details of the story. (And I didn’t.) But whatever.
What I liked about this book is how much of a commentary it ends up being on our world, even though this book is set at least 200 years from now, probably more like at least 250 years. This book, more than the others, felt like a direct comment on the state of the world now. It commented on politics, religions, the corrupting influence of power, demagogues, morality, non-binary people, and more. In each case, you tended to see the good and the bad in both. For example, you see characters who are charismatic leaders–one who is reluctantly taking up the mantel and one that relishes it. And that very clearly showed the differences.
Actually, some of the book was downright frightening and hit way too close to home. There were times I had to put the book down for a while because it had gotten too real. I suppose it wasn’t hard to find inspiration for a lot of these events and characters because you could literally turn on the news and see a lot of this happening worldwide.
I think the story is woven together in a very interesting and fascinating way. There are many characters we see the story from. This story isn’t just about what one person is doing–it’s about the many. So that made sense. And it was brilliant how it jumped from one to the other most of the time, seamlessly flowing as events in one place influenced something else.
My minor complaint with that was that the timeline constantly changed. For some lines, we were 3 years after the events of Thunderhead. In others, it was a few months. Eventually they all caught up, but sometimes knowing where we were on the timeline was a struggle. Usually I figured it out well after the fact.
The characters obviously are the ones who sell this book–both the good and the bad. We’ve been following Citra and Rowan the whole time, so obviously there’s a connection to them. But I found myself liking characters I didn’t remember (but were in the other books) like Greyson and Munira. The best character, though, was Jerico, a character we just meet this time. Goddard, I felt, became a scarier version of Voldemort in this book. Like, I think even Voldemort would have balked at some of the things Goddard was doing and that says something.
The first 200 pages were a rough read for me just to acclimate to the seriousness of it all and try to figure out what was going on. But after that, I did get drawn into the story.
My real issue with the story was actually the ending. For a series as amazing and dedicated to wrestling with good vs. evil as this series is, I pictures an epic Battle of Hogwarts style ending. Things had to come to a head. But instead, the conclusion was short and pretty unsatisfying. All that build up…and the story just fizzled. I know endings are hard to make everyone happy, but this was about as unsatisfying as the end of Mockingjay.
So yeah, most of the book was good, except the ending. I think this series truly is Shusterman’s crowning achievement and he’s written some amazing books before. But this series…this is next level.
This is a soft 5 roses. I’m actually more inclined to give it a 4.5 or 4.75, but obviously that’s not an option.