My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This conclusion to the three book series Secondborn lacks the intrigue, politics, and mystery of it's two predecessors. As the series progressed into book 2 it held most of these elements with a slight increase in the science fiction aspects of the story. But our lead gal remained the same and her narrative was very compelling. Unfortunately book 3, Rebel Born, by Bartol is a bit of a mess. It takes our fantasy world and adds too much technology, too quickly.
Nothing bothers me more in literature than convenience. If your character needs all the stars to align every chapter for events to move forward, and you always make that automatically happen, then it's boring. Compelling stories have tension, excitement, uncertainty, etc. A good author keeps the line between what needs to happen, versus what does, very thin and always ensures that the events and outcomes are plausible (inside their worlds rules), logical and intricate enough to surprise the reader at times. Events that are curated too tightly, because the plot heavily relies on them, and don't easily fit cohesively in the story are frustrating and make me twitch. Reading is difficult when your twitching so much your eyes can't keep their place on the page.
There is one strong aspect to Bartol's trilogy however: the characters. She has a strong heroine, and sultry compassionate men whom all feel genuine.
From sentimental quotes like:
"life is lost without love”To downright evil thoughts like:
"I merely strive to annihilate weakness. Isn’t that the very purest form of evolution?”Bartol keeps the reader entranced by having authentic and honest people in her story. If only a book could stand entirely on the shoulders of it's characters, and didn't need believable plot, then Bartol might have a hit on her hands. Unfortunately, as much as character studies are one of my favourite types of reads, a character can't save a book entirely. We are not saved by our characters from Rebel Born being stupendously unbelievable and leaping technological barriers too quickly.
As a reader of both the science fiction and fantasy genres I often love when they merge together. But it's tricky to balance the need for magic to be well 'magical' and science to be technical. Unfortunately these types of books are rarely done well. It seems to be quite the literary challenge to set up parameters for both science and magic that don't contradict each other or feel out of place in the same world. Bartol falls to the same trap I've seen in countless other books that merge sci-fi and fantasy together. In Rebel Born magic does X and technology does well... everything else. In fact magic becomes insignificant at one point and science the 'supreme ruler' of her world. This would be fine if the science used didn't resolve every single plot issue by just being. Where's the ingenuity of the characters in the resolution? Giving all the glory to magic or science is never satisfying for the reader. I want books to be clever and represent events in a compelling way where our characters are critical to the outcome; not just have science (or magic) make everything resolve by default.
Bartol has the writing style and character development skill needed to write good books; but she needs to work on her plot resolutions. I want to see our characters analyze and sort out situations on their own more; without the power of magic or science creating a perfect fix. The resolution can involve magic or science, don't get me wrong, but it shouldn't just be a 'wave and everything is better' scenario at the end of three books. Overall I wanted more from Bartol's series. I'll look for her publications in the future but will be a little wary of investing into any large series by her until I've seen a trilogy that doesn't rely on the flip of a magic wand (or press of a button) to make everything all better.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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