This is the final book in the series, so I don’t feel the need to post a summary, but I just wanted to do a brief review. This review will, however, contain some spoilers. Most of it will be spoiler-free, but I’ve got some opinions and I would really like to share them. I’ll be sure and mark the section with spoilers in big print.
If you’ve read the previous two books in this trilogy, you expect an epic conclusion, and Legrand does not disappoint. This is a very large cast story, especially since it transcends two different timelines, and in this final installment I believe you get more perspectives than ever before. This bob-and-weave between two different timelines and multiple perspectives (though it does stay in third person throughout) might be confusing and overwhelming in most situations, but Legrand masterfully blends this story together to make it cohesive and comprehensible throughout.
However, this is the second sequel in a row where the author, in my opinion, breaks the unspoken rule where the writer must give little hints of the major plot points from the previous book within the first 50-100 pages as a little refresher. Fifty pages in I nearly put the book down and thought about doing a re-read, but that’s close to 1200 combined pages in the previous two books, so I decided to forge on through. I’ll definitely do a re-read of all three books someday though, so I can get the full picture, because I’m sure there are some things I missed due to waiting at least a year between each book.
I would also like to say that this is probably the heaviest of all three of the books. In all but perhaps the last one hundred pages, all four of our “heroes”, Rielle, Audric, Simon, and Eliana, are utterly tormented and trapped within their own hells. So if you’re looking for something lighthearted, Lightbringer might be one to save for later.
However, Legrand offers a masterclass in worldbuilding, engaging though sometimes slow-moving plot lines, and the most morally ambiguous cast of characters you’ll find anywhere (except for Audric, who is a cinnamon bun).
!!!START OF SPOILERS!!!!
Here are the two main problems I had with this book, besides being mildly depressed through nearly all of it:
I’m not really sure that Rielle deserved the redemption that she got. This book showed her getting real twisted and bad, and for the first time I saw her as nearly as much of a villian as Corien and didn’t have much pity for her at all throughout. I think while it was important that she got to the point where she would have killed Audric had Eliana not stopped her, I think she should have had to work a little harder to earn Audric’s trust back. I think he forgave her for everything a little too easily. It’s okay to love someone through their mistakes, but I feel she should have had to work harder to earn back the little bit of peace she got from their relationship in the end.
I feel like all of those characters in the future timeline that were developed through all three of these books got the short stick. I know the whole point was to defeat Corien in the past to prevent the timeline they live in, but Navi, Remy, Patrik and Hob, and even Jessamyn, all just wiped from existence. I would have appreciated a little epilogue of “1000 years later” or something that went over that these characters were still born, but not under the same circumstances…because just wiping them all out seemed cruel and lame.
Overall I think that this book was a well-written, generally satisfying ending to a wonderful series that I would certainly recommend to everyone who loves fantasy. And considering the last book that I read with time travel (see last week’s summary of Greythorne), I think this series did a much better job of making things with time travel messy and imperfect, just the way it should be.
If you’re a fan of the Empirium Trilogy, try:
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (for epic worldbuilding)
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (for morally ambiguous protagonists)
The Reader by Traci Chee (for not-your-traditional happy ending)
Time it took me to read: 3 days of reading over 15 days (during NaNoWriMo)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review: There is a lot that I liked about Greythorne. The characters are easy to root for, the pacing is pretty good, and I would say that it is decidedly unpredictable. However, I had to take a star away because though I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I had a pretty large gripe, and it’s the same gripe that I had with the first installation: the world-building is half-baked and the plot is rather confusing.
Listen, the world that I see, that I understand, I’m into it. The brand of magic is far from generic, and I think that keeping the scale small (a tale of two kingdoms) is smart, but I don’t really understand most of the rules of the magic or the world that’s been built. I’m not fully sure that Smith knows all of her own rules, which is pretty important for a writer.
As an avid reader and aspiring writer of YA fantasy, I like to look back on a book once I’ve finished it and understand how I got to the ending. While there were little clues left behind, they were so strange and out of place when you first read them, I was just confused, rather than intrigued, which I think was the idea. However, I also know world-building is crazy hard, having tried it myself. I very much respect her effort and look forward to the third book in the series coming August 2021.
Summary (SPOILERS AHEAD):
Aurelia – young princess of Renalt, older sister of Conrad. She is a blood witch, meaning she is able to use magic that involves drawing her blood or using someone elses. Renalt persecutes witches, so they must live in hiding. If they’re captured, they’re killed. Aurelia is the only blood witch who doesn’t hide her powers.
Conrad – eight year old king of Renalt, coronated in the early part of this book because his mother died in the previous installment. Likes puzzle toys and is wise beyond his years
Zan (Valentin) – rightful king of the collapsed kingdom of Achleva, Aurelia’s love interest. “Died” near the end of the first book, Aurelia saved him using her own life force, so they are bound together. In the beginning of Greythorne, thought by Aurelia to be dead (really dead).
Kellen Greythorne – bodyguard of Aurelia, his life is bound to hers with a blood oath. If she is about to die, he dies in her place. His was one of three lives protecting Aurelia’s: her mother the queen (who dies in the first book), Simon (blood mage mentor), and Kellen’s. He is in love with Aurelia, she does not love him the same way.
Onal – herb woman of Renalt, close advisor to royal family. Secret grandmother of Aurelia, when her adopted grandmother the former queen could not conceive children. Grumpy, but brave and intelligent.
Rosetta – new character in this book, the feral magic witch of the Ebonwilde. Immortal, called the Warden because she is the keeper of the balance of the world and cannot die until she is replaced by another descendant of the Ilithiya.
Dominic Castillion – self-proclaimed king of Achleva, supposed murderer of Zan. When Achleva collapsed and Zan went missing, Castillion took advantage and spends this book working on completely taking control of the country.
Lorelai, Rafaella, Delphinia, and Jessamine – the “Canary Girls”, saloon girls of the Quiet Canary inn. Friends of Aurelia, they protect her and her brother from the authorities.
Aurelia thinks Zan is dead, and wants to get on the luxury boat of Dominic Castillion to kill him in revenge for Zan. Conrad is due to be crowned, and Aurelia is trying to stay out of it, knowing she’s a danger to her brother’s rule as a known blood witch. The Tribunal (judicial authority of Renalt) is after her. Simon, from his hiding place, sends her a mysterious book that she only partially deciphers.
On the day of her brother’s coronation, a woman named Isobel Arceneaux, a magistrate for the Tribunal, arrives and tries to use her brother’s coronation as an excuse to try her and kill her on the spot. She drags Zan forward, proving he’s alive. In desperation to save her own life and Zan’s, Aurelia kills one of Isobel’s men and uses that blood to transpot her and Zan to safety at the Quiet Canary.
Zan has been working secretly for the past year that Aurelia thought he was dead to help refugees and work to take his country back. He was captured by Isobel coming into Renalt.
At the Quiet Canary, despite being mad at him for not telling her he wasn’t dead, Aurelia gets a little drunk on sombersweet wine and decides to seduce Zan.
However, doing so kills her. Well, it kills Simon, who was her second protector after her mother. Simon tells her that when she touches Zan, it kills her because his lifeforce recognizes hers as his own, so when he touches her it literally sucks her lifeforce out. Simon tells her that there is a prophecy: if Zan dies, the Malefica (evil entitity) will be released upon the world, but if she dies, the Malefica will be trapped forever. But she can’t die, because before she can die Kellen has to die (due to the bloodcloth ritual). Simon tells her to go to the feral witch of the Ebonwilde for help to break the bond between Kellen and herself. Simon dies.
Aurelia awakens and runs away without telling Zan what happened (dumb), then goes back to Greythorne (where her brother is ruling from), and grabs Kellen and Onal to find the witch of the Ebonwilde.
Aurelia, Onal, and Kellen find the witch, her name is Rosetta and Onal is her sister. Onal is like 120 years old, and Rosetta is just as old, but looks sixteen because she is the Warden, meaning she is the protector of all things in the world (descendant of the Emperya (goddess) ). Rosetta recognizes the book Simon gave her and tells her it belonged to her older sister, the previous Warden.
Rosetta teaches Aurelia how to travel using the Gray, a realm that is inbetween times. The first time she goes, she is looking for the Ilithiya’s Bell, which is a powerful magical artifact Aurelia thinks is needed to break the bond between her and Kellen.
The merry band (Aurelia, Onal, Rosetta, and Kellen) travel to Achleva, because they think that’s where they’ll find the bell. Instead they find Zan, who has resumed his duties in trying to save his kingdom. Aurelia goes into the Grey again and gets the story of how Rosetta and Onal’s older sister, the previous Warden dies. What happened was that soldiers came and murdered Rosetta. Galantha (oldest sister), is unable to accept it and uses her magic and the Gray to try and save her sister. Through a complicated series of events, it works, but Mathuin Greythorne, her love, got sent away to an unknown place (or time), and Galantha “died” to save Rosetta and make her the Warden, though she trapped the wrong spirit in the wrong body (as I understand it), which makes Rosetta immortal.
Also we learn that Isobel Arceneaux is the sister of Aurelia’s father, the dead king, though she was a girl so she was left to die as an infant, so she doesn’t know her background. Aurelia learns that Onal is her grandmother.
Zan, Kellen, and Rosetta are captured by the Tribunal, Onal and Aurelia narrowly escape. In order to get back to Renalt where Aurelia is convinced she’ll find the Bell she needs, she gives herself up as a hostage to Dominic Castillion, the pretend king of Achleva. She tricks him at his own game and leaves him on his ship to die as it burns. In this escape, Onal is wounded and Aurelia must use her blood to get them out of the situation alive. This causes Onal to die.
Aurelia makes it back to Renalt to find the Tribunal has completely taken over, her brother is safe and in hiding at the Quiet Canary with Aurelia’s friends and the local children.
Upon going back to Greythorne, Aurelia finds a member of the Tribunal, Lyall, has been doing experiments where he traps souls of deceased Tribunal members in the bodies of other deceased people. Basically they slaughtered the whole village, including the refugees, to make them creepy zombies with the souls of Tribunal people. Aurelia takes them all out and goes back to rescue Kellen, Rosetta, and Zan from Isobel, who is convinced that the Empyrea (really the Malefica) will take over her body if she can kill Zan on the red moon day.
Everyone, including Kellen’s brother, the lord of Greythorne, is dead from this ghoulish experiment. Rosetta admits that there isn’t any real way that the Bell can break the bond, she was lying because she was trying to find the bell because she just wants to be able to die.
Aurelia realizes that Kellen doesn’t need to die to break the bond, she just needs to take away from him something just as valuable, for Kellen that is his purpose as a guard. So she takes her dagger and cuts off his right hand, his sword hand. He is understandably pissed, totally ungrateful that she saved his life.
Aurelia confronts Isobel, who is going to kill Zan. During the chase, Aurelia finds the Bell and rings it.
This is where shit gets the WEIRDEST (sorry, I try to be pretty objective in these summaries). Aurelia figures out that all her problems can be solved with time travel, and in fact have already been solved with her time travel. She splits her souls (or something) and puts the perfect, unblemished one to sleep somewhere safe. Then she takes her body that is fated to die and does all of the time travel tasks required to make everything work out. She saves Zan’s life where she thought he died in the beginning (convenient), she gives her little brother all the tools he’ll need to set everything in place, including a vial of her blood which will be needed to reawaken her other self. He is the only one she tells the whole plan to, so that’s why he is so calm and not worried the whole book. She goes back so far to a long dead king of Renalt and forces him to make peace with Achleva by saying the next daughter of Renalt would marry a son of Achleva (which is what got them all into this situation in the first place).
And at the very end she goes back to where Isobel has been completely taken over by the Malefica and rings the Bell so that Isobel/Malefica is the immortal Warden of the world, taking the mantel from Rosetta.
To make sure the Malefica is trapped forever in the Grey, Aurelia must die. So she goes to where Zan is and kisses him to kill herself, but tells him that it isn’t forever, that he just needs to find her.
They bury Aurelia, everyone is upset except for Conrad, who knows better. After the funeral, he gives Zan Aurelia’s blood and the instructions. It takes them a year, but I guess they find her other body in the glass coffin.
Final Thoughts: This isn’t the most elegant summary, I’m going to try and do these right after I finish reading the book, not like a week later, in the future. To anyone who’s read Greythorne, I hope this is helpful in preparing for Ebonwilde, the final installment in the Bloodleaf series, due August 2021.