I thoroughly enjoyed Book 1 in this trilogy. There were a lot of things it did exceptionally well. I found it very memorable. I re-read it before I read Book 2, and found it good all over again. When Book 3 arrived, I remembered Book1 well, but had forgotten much of Book 2 -- except its ending. I don't think this is only because I had read the first book twice and the second only once, I think it is because the first book is the strongest. I re-read them both before reading Book 3. Even though I still think Book 1 is the strongest, I enjoyed spending more time in this world and with these characters -- I just think the subsequent installments lack the power-punch of the first book (now read thrice).
I wouldn't read on from here if you haven't read Books 1 and 2. No all-out spoilers for Book 3, but mention of things in previous books are included.
- Like the first two books, Baggott does not shy away from dark things. She loves dark things. As a result, when Esky asked me, "How old should I be before I read that series?" I thought for about two seconds and then said, "18!" Now, I'm not sure these books are R18. But I am sure that gentle natures would find the content horrifying. There are a lot of horror elements; zombie-like creatures, mutant-like creatures, narcissistic villains, abductions, aggressive/sentient plants...so much.
- I found the ending...blah. And based on comments I've heard from some of you, I think you would find it more than blah, some of you would find it enraging.
- The pacing is pretty good. I looked forward to reading.
- The narrative maintains multiple perspectives. It's pretty good that way.
- The characters are pretty consistent, but I sadly didn't feel like I loved them any more for having spent three books with them. I would have liked to have felt increased depth to our relationship (hahaha), and I didn't.
- There are some peripheral characters in these books I wish Book 3 had spent more time with. Fandra and the John-John survivors -- they seemed interesting, wish we could've hung out there. Hastings -- fascinating. Sedge -- I'd love to know him better.
- I wasn't completely sold on the idea that Pressia, Bradwell, Partridge and Lyda were exceptional and unique. Usually, I can suspend disbelief in a post-apocalyptic novel and accept my hero/ine is a boss because of some cursory explanation as to why he/she is an outlier. In this novel's case, I felt I never got a truly valid or convincing argument as to why these four were outliers / special cases. Because you know what? All of the "wretches" (survivors outside the dome) seemed to be made of tough stuff. I understand there's "The Seven" -- some of their parents were the Best and Brightest -- but that wasn't enough. Is there an inherent implication that genetically these four are different because some their parents were important players? It isn't stated, and I don't think that's a given. They didn't spend enough time with their parents to claim environmental causes for their unique natures...and if they did, I needed brief allusion to that. How did Pressia's short time with her mother make her exceptional? Bradwell? Partridge? I wasn't convinced. I didn't see how Pressia was any more special than any other survivor outside the dome. In fact, she was less impressive than Fandra -- who made her own future -- if you consider how Pressia was comparatively manipulated into most of what she did. El Capitan is the exception to this. I get why he is special -- because there's some exposition there about his Uncle teaching him survival skills -- he had environmental factors (including his unique fusing) which resulted in his status as an outlier. When Partridge says the solution to all the things is a council made up of (hello!) a list of the the friends he's made outside over the past few weeks...well...it felt like he was reaching and illogical. If I was convinced of the super-ness of that group, I wouldn't have questioned his partiality.
- One group of peripherals that DOES get the treatment they deserve, are the mothers. They were fantastic to read about. There's a part where El Capitan shakes in his boots at the mention of the mothers, and I love it. I am very sorry, however, that one of the antagonists who I am promised an ugly retribution is left a loose end! What?! One of the mothers is going to target one of the biggest jerks?! Tell me it happened! How!? I know you're not afraid to go there!
Review copy received from Hachette.