Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
I picked this up a long, long time ago and finally had the impetus to read it thanks to its status as a Cybils nominee. Why I waited so long, I don’t know. It’s a fantastic ending to the trilogy and an absorbing read throughout. This third and final volume focuses on Annith, who has been told by the abbess that she is to be the next seeress, a position that requires her to remain in the convent always. What she really wants to do is go out on missions like Ismae and Sybella have before her. She knows she has no latent talent for seeing, and when the abbess sends a younger and under-trained girl out before her, she knows something is up. So she leaves to figure it out. On her adventures, the secrets the abbess has been hiding come to light, and Annith discovers something surprising about herself in the process. Mortal Heart ties up all loose ends, but in a way that feels satisfying rather than pat. We learn more about Mortain and the other gods of the Nine, a fascinating mythology sprung from LaFevers’ brain but based in history. The political problems between France and Brittany also come to a head.
These books are so well-written, long but not dense, with some of the best world-building and long-term plotting I’ve encountered. I’m also impressed by characterization. Ismae, Sybella, and Annith are each wholly distinct, their own people, with their own voices in each book. Readers looking for a swoony romance like they found in the first two won’t be disappointed; in fact, the romance was one of the aspects I found most compelling, in part because it’s a bit more unique than Ismae’s and Sybella’s. This whole series is a winner, and Mortal Heart is a worthy conclusion.
Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci
Unlike Mortal Heart, this was a sequel I found a bit disappointing. It picks up a few months after Tin Star, when Tula has established herself on the Yertina Feray with a sweets, salts, and water shop, selling the three things all aliens want and need. But then Brother Blue returns, and so does Reza, and circumstances that arise as a result of their arrivals cause Tula to abandon the space station for the wider universe beyond. The world-building is interesting and the presence of the Imperium ratchets the stakes up several notches, but the writing felt a bit sloppy and disconnected. As a result, I didn’t get sucked into the story and I found myself not much caring about any of Tula’s Human friends, though I still did care about Tula. At one point Tula reunites with a character she assumed was long dead, and it was so awkward and anticlimactic that I felt nothing. The friendship between Tula and Tournour developed mostly off-page between the two books, which is a shame since it was one of the most interesting aspects of the first book. Stone in the Sky is a worthwhile read for fans of Tin Star, but I think many readers will ultimately be let down.