Quick recap: Book one, Gemma discovers of her magical power to enter the realms and she makes a few unlikely friends. Book two, into the dangers of magical realms and all the power they represent. Now it’s time at last to figure out what it all means, or reach some meaningful or heart breaking place with the hero. That’s the nutshell of what I want from the end of a series.
Book three, it’s March and we’re back at the academy as the girls complete their final weeks of lady training. Gemma has bound all the power in the realms to herself so becoming a sociable wife has yet to make her to-do list. She knows she can’t hold these powers forever, but she’s reluctant to let them go as a little magic is a game changer in her stuffy Victorian world. Of course, there are creatures in these realms and they don’t particularly want to be ruled by humans anymore.
Gemma’s two close friends, Felicity and Anne, have also had their taste of the magic and are likewise hooked. Not a one of them is looking forward to a future that’s not of their choosing. They long for independence and magic seems like their only vehicle to get there.
The sun has blessed us with the first taste of the warm weather to come, and we turn our faces toward it like flames.
While most of Felicity and Gemma’s concerns are rich people problems, their self-awareness and occasional wit keep them on the likable side of snark. More so than in the other two books, Gemma’s choices are deceptively simple – to help her friends and herself or make true on the alliance she formed with creatures of questionable morals. Her transport and sort of friend Gorgon, the last monster of its kind bound to a ship for betraying her kind, reminds her:
Peace is not happenstance. It is a living fire that must be fed constantly.
Magic is power and with power comes responsibility. Deciding what to do and playing keep away from creatures with an ever-growing dark side creates a chaos inside of Gemma. Unfortunately the chaos doesn’t really go anywhere.
For me, book three doesn’t merit its 800+ pages. The main characters are so engrossed in themselves and saccharine self discoveries that any sense of danger or stakes lands more like a tap than a punch. You’ll miss the big dramatic moment if you blink, which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing since it struck two big pet peeves – using a death as a convenient device and horrible endings. Truly a good ending is getting harder and harder to come across. Maybe that’s why publishing are releasing this plague of series upon us.
For me the quality of the writing in this series is better than the story itself. The overarching concept of a girl holding the power to enter a dark, magical realm is traditional, as are the cast of characters, and that’s fine if it goes someplace new. And a trendy Victorian background doesn’t count. While I enjoyed book one enough to continue with the series, the final two were a let down. At some point along the long, long, unnecessarily page-y way, I think I missed the point.