Monday, March 31, 2014

Sing For Me, and Make It a Glorious Song

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous books, The Immortal Rules and The Eternity Cure, or don't mind knowing some major spoilers for them. The Forever Song, however, will remain spoiler-free.

The Forever Song
~The Forever Song~
Blood of Eden
Book 3

By Julie Kagawa
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Available April 15th

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?
With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.


Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost—the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

It's all come down to this. I loved the last book, but hated the first book. Would Allie's final quest be enough to win me over, or would I return to the disinterest I felt in the beginning? Only time and 416 electronic pages would tell.

First off, let's return to our heroine narrator, Allie. The end of The Eternity Cure dealt Allie a huge blow to her convictions and her outlook on life/afterlife. And so, here she has a lot to deal with both internally and externally. Vengeance will only get her so far, and after dealing with Sarren, how will she live for the rest of eternity? After what I felt were a couple of highly convenient events, she finds her answer and moves forward.

Allie has always struck me as more a kickass underdog than an actual tortured soul, thus her real challenges were based mainly in the plot rather than internally. Give her something to do, someone to fight, someplace to go, and she struggles, overcomes, and succeeds. Give her an internal dilemma with a million shades of grey and she will reliably pick the lightest/whitest shade. Because the plot conveniently presents a choice of black or white. Because she's our heroine. Not to say she isn't entertaining to read and follow, but don't expect any more depth out of her than she's previously shown. She has her strengths and weaknesses, so leave the ass kicking to her and the complex emotions to other characters.

If you read the Epilogue from The Eternity Cure, then you'll know that Zeke does make a return here. I won't say how or when in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say I loved where his character went this book. He's always had a lot of crap to deal with, what with post-apocalyptic monsters and food shortages and responsibility and falling in love with the enemy and such. Now he's got even more to deal with, and it is a doozy of an issue. Thing is, as much as I loved Zeke's full character arc in the series, I thought this book handled his new conflict a little too quickly. I get that it isn't his story, and that there are some catastrophic time-sensitive things going on, but I guess I wished his story had taken more time, or struggle, or didn't end as cleanly as it did.

Which brings me to the other character I want to see more of, Jackal. Who would have guessed that Book One's baddie would turn into my all-time favorite character of the series? Jackal turns out to be surprisingly helpful in this book, both in the action parts and in the emotional parts. And yet he still refuses to be thought of as a hero, or a good guy, or anything but a ego-maniacal bastard. I like to think of him as that little devil on your shoulder, poking and prodding you with a pitchfork to give into your dark side, but ultimately doesn't want you to cause yourself harm so begrudgingly offers sound, helpful advice every so often. And with that personality, plus that mystery of his past still hanging there, I'd just like to ask for a Jackal spinoff, please?!?!?!?

Much to my surprise and relief, even with an awesomely mysterious and complex guy like Jackal on the roster, the romance is kept solely between Allie and Zeke. And I can say that I still totally support it. I do think that, much like Zeke's arc, some of the struggles were resolved a little too quickly, but after what the two have gone through I can overlook some of the rushing. What doesn't kill [the romance] makes [it] stronger, right? And though the beginning of the book does leave the door wide open for my pick, Jackal, to make a move, he stays firmly in a brotherly role. Since I'm sure others are tired of the Love-Triangle trope, you can all breathe a sigh of relief that it isn't revived here.

And speaking of breathing, I do have to reiterate some of my confusion and annoyance at the lack of solid information concerning the vampire lore. First, I know I may be harping on this a little too hard, but can we please reach a consensus on the breathing/not breathing thing. A) You have to have airflow in order to talk; this is simple science. B) You have to be breathing in order to SMELL things. I can buy not needing to breathe, thus making extended underwater or underground activities possible, but specifically stating the characters not breathing and then having scent or speech take place directly afterwards always threw me completely out of the narrative. But it's gone through the entire series, so at least there's consistency.

Secondly, what differentiates Master Vampires from underling vampires? I understand there's a power difference, and being able to create other vampires without rabidism, but what makes them Master class in the first place? Can you will it? Is it something you inherit from your sire? Is it complete chance? Maybe, maybe this was covered in the exposition section (Part II) of The Immortal Rules, but that was so long ago (both in time and in pages) that it might have been nice for a refresher.

On the other hand, I will acknowledge that this book has amazing pacing. Allie and her crew are in a literal race against time as Sarren plans to refine and unleash a virus to wipe out all humans, rabids and vampires alike, and there is never a wasted moment. All breaks take place at times when there is no other choice, and whenever a conversation or argument goes on too long, someone always starts on the trail again. The only lull comes just before they enter Eden for the final showdown, but that serves only as a deep breath before taking the plunge. I was glued to my Kindle the entire time, finishing the whole book in two sittings.

So as the conclusion to a series, I'd say this book certainly delivered. All the characters met satisfying endings, or at least reached a place where an open-ended ending wasn't infuriating. There was a moment toward the end which foretold/spoiled the big ending reveal for me, at which point I was screaming at the characters to stop being so oblivious, but there was so much action and I was already hooked by that point so I guess it wasn't that big of a deal.

Ultimately, I'm glad I read this series. I got to know some kickass and complex characters, explore a vampire-filled post-apocalyptic wasteland, and experience an action-packed, nail-bitingly intense (and at times romantic) journey toward salvation. It had its issues, some of them nearly crippling the entire series, but I came out the other side with a positive experience overall, so I'd chalk that up as a win in my book. And as I walk off into the sunset, I look forward to reading what else Ms. Kagawa has out there (and continue hoping for a Jackal spinoff).

Overall, The Forever Song was a strong and satisfying conclusion to its series. I'd highly recommend it for anyone already hooked in the Blood of Eden, or those who are interested in a gritty, post-apocalyptic* YA romance with a lot of bloody vampire action. I can't recall any language this time around, but a sex scene and a lot of gory violence has me keeping my ranking of high school and older. With questions of morality, survival, stigma, and free will combined with chases, fights, and the occasional kiss, how could you not be racing to sink your teeth into this series? And once you've devoured the first two installments, you'll definitely want to check out The Forever Song as soon as possible.

Approximate Reading Time: 8.5 hours

*Though the series is marketed as a Dystopian, I struggle to call this particular book a Dystopian. The first and second books in the series had Dystopian elements while inside the city of New Covington, but this book takes place either in the wastes, where there is no government whatsoever, or in Eden, where there is a fair and supportive government. The series as a whole also fails to incorporate many of the themes and motifs associated with the Dystopian genre. So while I begrudgingly include the Dystopian label on the previous books' reviews, I will not include it here.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.