I should start by saying I’m REALLY behind. The last book in this trilogy was published in 2009, which sets me a solid five years behind the actual release date. However, if you’ve an interest in gothic supernatural fiction and you haven’t read the books then by all means, read on.
So the series started out okay. Written by Libba Bray between 2003 and 2009, the series as a whole is something like 1800 pages (I haven’t counted, don’t quote me). I actually read the first book back around the time it came out, and then promptly abandoned the whole series when I found out there was no set release date for the next book. I rarely have the patience to wait indefinitely for a book although there are certainly series where I make exceptions! However, I read a review of the third book recently, and decided to give the whole series another try – it was the week after my LSAT, and I was determined to waste a little time.
I started reading, and it was all right – I won’t say it was gripping or anything, and there were certainly times where I found a lot of the characters hugely irritating. I found myself wondering why Gemma was surrounded by such quirky and frustrating people on all sides, as well as about her deep well of forgiveness. But overall, it had an interesting premise, and I was willing to explore further. So I read the second book, which was all right, and then I read the third book because by then I had come too far, and honestly, it was fine.
I found myself counting pages down to the end in the last book, which is never something you want to be doing, and I felt like the second half of the last book was sort of shoddily put together. There were just too many ends and too many loose strands by the end, and Bray’s attempts to tie them all up wound up being unwieldy. It was just too long without being complete, and so many unnecessary plot points were added near the end, presumably in an attempt to force character development. Characters that should have passed long before or become larger obstacles faded away anti-climactically, and Gemma’s loyalty to people she was constantly angry with became unrelatable.
Ultimately, I think the biggest problem was that I am outside of this novel’s target demographic. I have to face the facts; I am no longer a teenage girl. This book would probably have thrilled me when I was 13, but I just didn’t find it nearly as appealing now. While there are a lot of books I read when I was younger that I re-read and enjoy to this day, this series was not one of them. As I read, it was hard to deny that I had outgrown this particular series.
Final recommendations: If you are interested in supernatural or fantasy literature, have an interest in historical fiction (1800s England), or like reading books with strong female leads, feel free to give this book a try. If any or all or these things apply AND you’re a teenager, try harder to pick it up. While this book is unlikely to blow anyone’s mind, it was ultimately a pleasant and quick read, and had an undercurrent of feminism that I enjoyed even when I was frustrated with every other part of the book.