There have been a lot of entries (final and not) in series that I love. Here are three that I’ve enjoyed recently.
Winter. Lunar Chronicles Book 4 by Marissa Meyer. Feiwel and Friends, 2015.
Here is a book with the challenging job of tying up all the strands of the previous three books (starting with Cinder) while staying within the basic framework of the Snow White story. Kai needs to return to Levana to prevent mass deaths, Cinder needs to rescue him and the Earth, Winter (who is dark skinned!) is going crazy from not using her Gift, her guard Jacin can neither admit nor reveal that he loves her, Scarlet is a prisoner, Wolf is going crazy without her, and Thorne won’t admit he loves Cress, driving both of them crazy. Yes, there is a lot of crazy, though Winter’s is the most literal insanity. At the same time, they’re trying to orchestrate a revolution on Luna.
My biggest problem is the whole Lunar gift thing: how has no one before Winter thought it’s unethical? I didn’t really like the book’s solution to this. All of these concerns are pushed aside as trifling matters, though, as I really did care about the characters and was having so much fun with them (maybe “fun” is the wrong word to use when I’m worried about them dying, but you know what I mean) that I couldn’t really stop to think about any inconsistencies. Meyer keeps the tension going for all 800 pages, saving the day in a way that’s very satisfying for modern readers who don’t want their princesses to be helpless damsels, despite the fairy tale trappings.
Pure Magic by Rachel Neumeier. Anara Press, 2015.
This one is technically book 3 in the Black Dog series, but as the original press, Strange Chemistry, went under (I’m still very sad about this), Neumeier has been publishing other books sporadically in between her other books. I special-ordered this from my bookstore, as my library wasn’t able to get it. Book 2 was a volume of ebook-only short stories, which I just got around to purchasing.
I hadn’t forgotten how much I loved Black Dog exactly, but clearly, I didn’t remember enough or I wouldn’t have waited so long to buy it.
This story opens in the American Southwest with a new character, Justin, who’s run away from his grandmother following his mother’s death. He’s just about to sit down to dinner with a friendly priest when the kitchen is invaded with decidedly unfriendly wild Black Dogs – and Ezekiel. Justin is Pure, but he doesn’t know it, or what it means. Ezekiel has to get him back to Dimilioc and hope that Natividad can both teach him his powers and persuade him to stay to keep him alive. Meanwhile, Dimilioc receives a call from a south-west branch though lost in the vampire wars: there is one vampire left after all, threatening the tiny pack. And a very unfriendly Black Dog, Chernaya Volchitza, the Black Wolf of Russia, makes herself known, taking a special interest in Natividad’s oldest brother Alejandro.
There are new forms of magic, lots of tension, excellent characters, gender role reversals, new slow-burning romance, and even a cause for bedroom doors to be closed in our faces. I want more of all of it.
A Tangle of Gold. Colors of Madeleine Book 3 by Jaclyn Moriarty. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2016.
This is the final book in the Colors of Madeleine series, which started with A Corner of White. Madeleine has a too-brief visit with Elliott, her boy from another dimension, before he and his dad go back to Cello. Madeleine start having nose bleeds, and gets visions of other places and times whenever she does. In Cello, Princess Ko is under arrest for hiding that the rest of the royal family disappeared, while her friends are still trying to bring the last three member back from the World. Everyone seems to be in the wrong place here – Keira living in Elliot’s home town with his farming friend Gabe, Elliot either hostage or safely hidden by Hostiles and cared for by a strange but beautiful Nature Strip girl. Madeleine tries to keep in touch with the royal family in the World herself, even though she’s also now cut off from Cello. Always before, Elliot and Madeleine have been able to work through their troubles by talking to each other – but now they must muddle through things on their own, very painfully. The bad things get worse, and they are clearly on a collision course.
From the diversity angle, most of the characters aren’t given enough physical description in these books for me to place them definitively – which in most books, alas, means that the characters are meant to be white. Here, though, it’s revealed that at least the royal family is mixed race, but everyone is required to dye their hair blond and wear make-up so as to maintain the traditional royal family appearance. Elliot, at least, finds this bizarre, commenting that most everyone in Cello is also mixed race.
These books combine very strange elements that really shouldn’t work – the whole kingdom of Cello sounds like a joke with its highly stereotyped provinces, storms of colors, and seasons that last for a day or two. Somehow, underneath all the humor and the quirky characters, Moriarty fits in genuine soul-searching and people whose struggles are absolutely real. There’s also the language – this example only partly captures the mix of magical and mundane, serious and silly that make these books so different and so addictive – “a sensation like reality tearing itself along a perforated line.” (p 23) If you’ve been waiting to start this series, now is the time.