Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard (ARC)

Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 22nd, 2014
In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus...all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.
"Strange and Ever After lived up to my expectations, even going beyond them."

"[Dennard] gets at the nuances of human life, and she knows how to craft her story realistically, even while it's set in a very unrealistic world/situation"

Disclaimer: I received an eARC on Edelweiss from HarperTeen. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this post.

So I was supposed to review Strange and Ever After ages ago (around the end of July/early August), but I got so caught up in everything else that it just didn't happen. Anyway, I absolutely adore this series, and I was so excited to read the final book to the trilogy (despite being saddened by the fact that this is the last book). While the previous book suffered from "second book syndrome," Strange and Ever After lived up to my expectations, even going beyond them.

Dear gosh, this book has a little bit of everything, and it's honestly my favorite book of the series. Firstly, there's all the suspense and the plot twists, some of which I saw coming, some of which took me by surprise! The plot is fast-paced but still has its mix of great, memorable, slower intimate moments. The book really found a perfect balance between the two.

And all the feels too! There was romance, friendship, betrayal, and so much more. Each relationship is complex, just as each character is. Every single character is flawed and makes mistakes, but you still cheer for the good guys. Yes, there were many times when the characters annoyed me or times when I just wanted to smack them for being so dumb or oblivious or whatever, but at the end of the day, I love the Spirit Hunters, Eleanor, and even Oliver. Seeing how Eleanor's relationship with the Spirit Hunters after the events in the second book changed made the story so much more real; their interactions are ones that could actually occur in real life if all of these events had actually happened. In tandem, there's Oliver and El's evolving relationship, growing ever more complicated and complex but still so exciting to read about and experience in the book. There's also the interesting development of Jie and Oliver's relationship, which should seem surprising but isn't once it's broken down a bit and explained. Then, it makes complete sense considering all that both characters have been through and continue to struggle through, which brings me to my next point. Jie's trauma from being kidnapped and all that happened to her while she was under Marcus' influence, especially in terms of how violated and weak she felt, is really well-written. I'm so glad to see that trauma such as hers is discussed and isn't glossed over, as it is in many other books. It's ever-present, and it impacts her decisions, her relationships, etc. It's this holistic approach, as well as the holistic approach towards Eleanor's trauma in regards to her mother, that truly makes the book stand out among others in the same genre or with a similar plot.

Lastly, I want to mention the ending of the book and of the series. I won't spoil anything, but I think the end is really important and impactful. It left me in tears, but it reminded me of just how great of a writer Susan Dennard is. Besides her beautifully crafted story and world, she gets at the nuances of human life, and she knows how to craft her story realistically, even while it's set in a very unrealistic world/situation. When I was at the panel at Books of Wonder (Sarah J Maas' release party for HoF), Susan spoke about having realistic consequences in books. Realistically, with a book such as Strange and Ever After, there isn't going to be a completely happy ending. It's improbable that everyone will get through the fight alive. And it makes me SO happy that she did just that. The characters face real consequences, ones that they can't escape and that would likely occur if such events happened in real life. Yes, it broke my heart, but I can completely understand why Dennard wrote it. It makes sense. It's sad, but it's life. Just as there are consequences to war, there are consequences to the war they fight in the series. And seeing how the other characters honor the dead character (I'm intentionally leaving this very vague) made me sob but also made me smile. It's perfect.

Props to Susan Dennard for this amazing book and for this amazing series. I can't wait for Truthwitch! If you haven't read Something Strange and Deadly, the first book of the series, yet, get on it!
Strange and Ever After: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Susan Dennard: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest | YouTube

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