Wow. This book had me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning to the very last page. It is somewhat of a departure from the previous installments in the series. Each of the first two books focused on the love story of an individual couple with the backdrop of the rich complicated world the author has created. But not this book. This book features all of the characters we already know and have come to care for, without a central love story. It feels a little different, but I still loved it.
The beginning of the story slightly overlaps with the end of The Shattered Sylph
. Leon, Ril and Lizzie have not yet returned to Sylph Valley. The sweet, but slightly dim couple that Leon and Ril rescued early in the last book, are now settling in. Gabralina is so happy that she writes to her old friend Sala to share her happy news about falling in love with Wat and finding a new home. Sala appears in the valley shortly after, ready to share in Gabralina's new life.
Leon, Ril, and Lizzie return with an angry Justin in tow. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is going to be serious trouble from that guy. Especially since he has the power to control Ril and he is still in love with Lizzie. While we wait for that shoe to drop, it's really Sala who reveals herself to be the villain. And what a villain she is. Sociopath is too kind of a word. She orchestrates deaths, rape, and misery, all for her own selfish gain. Watching the destruction of poor Claw is heartbreaking. Gabralina's eventual devastation actually made me cry. Sala isn't traditionally malicious; she is a pit of evil... a soulless void. And in that, she is frightening and gruesome.
The story doesn't only center on the mayhem surrounding Sala. We see the continuing repercussions from the events in the last book, with the rise of a new queen and her new hive. We see Solie and Heyou grow as a couple and deal with their inability to have children. We lose some people we've grown to love and we gain new characters who will no doubt become beloved as well.
This book took my emotions on a roller coaster ride and I honestly had no idea what would happen. Which was awesome. The world building is fascinating and consistent. The characters are many, but are clearly defined and emotionally resonant. The story builds beautifully on the previous installments, making it a treasure for fans of the series. But I don't know how clear it would all be to a newcomer to the books. I suggest checking the series out from the beginning. It's worth it. I can't wait to see what happens next. 5 stars.*ARC Provided by NetGalley