Chaos by Sarah Fine: review

October 9, 2014 2014, paranormal, sarah fine, Wendy 30 ★★★★

Chaos by Sarah Fine: reviewChaos by Sarah Fine
Series: Guardians of the Shadowlands #3
Published by Skyscape on October 7, 2014
Genres: paranormal
Pages: 388 pages
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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With Juri in control and everything in absolute chaos, Lela plunges into the depths of hell to free Malachi from creatures that have waited decades to exact their revenge. But the Judge has her own way of doing things, and Lela must work with Ana, the new Captain, who has a very personal mission of her own. Together, they infiltrate the most horrifying realm either has yet encountered in the Shadowlands—the bitter landscape ruled by the Mazikin.

The stakes could not be higher, and Lela must accept the help—and love—of people she barely knows or trusts. As alliances and loyalties shift and she realizes the soul she came to save isn’t the only one in need of rescue, can Lela summon the strength to see the fight through to the very end?

What would you sacrifice for someone you love? In Chaos by Sarah Fine, the last installment of the Guardians of the Shadowlands series, Lela journeys into the dangerous Mazikin City to save her beloved Malachi, but finds that danger to herself is no match to the agony of watching danger to those she holds dear.

This series is incredibly dark. The characters endure nightmarish suffering with very little hope for reward–not entirely surprising when most of it is literally set in hell. But the bleak savagery of this world is saved by the latent emotion that permeates this story. These human beings are facing depraved creatures, cold-hearted sentences, and painful torture, and yet they continue to hope and dream in the middle of impossible circumstances. The characters and relationships are all memorable, including Ana and Takeshi’s, as well as the assorted villains. So much thought and care is put into Lela’s troubled relationship with her mother as well–I found that to be one of the most touching parts of Chaos, and I wish more non-contemporary YA books included these kinds of complex familial ties.

The best part of this series, however, is most certainly the romance between Lela and Malachi. After being separated for much of the last book, they’re reunited here, even thought it’s under awful circumstances. This scene, in which Lela sits with him as he’s in a great deal of pain, is one of my favorites.

I held him, all the while thinking of what he was to me.  He thought I was strong, but he was willing to lay down his life to protect me. He thought I was beautiful, but he treated me as a precious gift instead of something to take for his own pleasure. He thought I was worth something, and he was worth everything to me. This man had endured lifetimes of suffering, but he could still love, and give, and dream of his future. He was a leader who would sacrifice himself for the weak, who used all his gifts–his intelligence, his cunning, his strength–to protect others. It was a privilege to love him, even to have a shot at giving him the things he needed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write a convincing romance. Notice nowhere in this paragraph is Malachi described as “hot.” (Zing! Sorry, inferior paranormal romances.) Lela and Malachi are both fierce warriors, and there are some seriously swoony moments in this book–but their tenderness and respect for each other are the defining qualities of their relationship. I also have no doubt that despite their love, they will always put their honor above all else. I admire that tremendously–it’s this characteristic, and the ability to think of others before yourself, that sets heroes apart from everyone else.

I will confess to the tiniest bit of a crisis that was entirely of my own doing, however. Towards the end of the book, I thought the story was going in one direction and I was both shocked and excited by it–but that didn’t end up happening. View Spoiler » But despite my crazy imaginings, I’m sure everyone will be very pleased with how everything actually turns out for them.

A couple of quibbles: I think the individual missions could have been more drawn out instead of having so many that seemed somewhat quickly (though to be fair, never easily) resolved, and there were a few moments in which the emotional beats gave me a little bit of déjà vu.  A couple of minor spoilery examples: a character you think is gone comes back, is suddenly endangered, disappears again, but then comes back again; you think a mission’s finished, but wait, it isn’t, not quite yet.  These two scenarios happen more than once, and while the emotional moments feel urgent and true, even well-written scenes lose some of their impact if you feel as though you’ve just experienced this situation not long before.

This is a very satisfying conclusion to Lela’s story, however, and I think fans of this series are going to be very happy. And if you haven’t tried Guardians of the Shadowlands yet, now is the perfect time to binge! You can buy all three books for your e-reader for less than the price of many single new releases, and I guarantee it’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. I strongly recommend this series to fans of Rose and Dimitri from Vampire Academy (and believe me, I do not say that lightly!) and Susan Ee’s Angelfall.

Sarah Fine’s had a busy year between the publication of this, the lovely dark romance Of Metal and Wishes, and her scifi book Scan, and I am very much looking forward to whatever new projects she’s working on next.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

vine-divider-finalStories from the Shadowlands

stories from the shadowlandsIf you’re sad that the series is over, however, don’t despair! The author is self-publishing a companion novel Stories from the Shadowlands that contains a 50 page novella, 5 additional scenes, and all 200 of Malachi’s journal entries. 200!

I’ve watched over the last few years as the author diligently posted Malachi’s thoughts on a regular basis, and I think that level of dedication is a clear indicator of the depth of thought that went into this. I’m excited to discover what Malachi’s been experiencing, as well as for more back story that I’m sure will enrich the experience of reading this series.

vine-divider-finalHave you read this series yet? And if you’ve already had the chance to read Chaos, what did you think of how things were resolved for Lela?

Wendy signature teal





30 Responses to “Chaos by Sarah Fine: review”

  1. Larissa

    I got an ARC of this on Netgalley ready to go but my Kobo recently broke :[ Worst luck ever! I can’t wait to read this one.

    ‘Dark’ really does sum up this series. It’s certainly one of the more dark series’ in YA. However I think the fact it’s not only dark, but also packed full of emotions is what brings it up to the next level. It’s not needlessly dark with all of the characters just suffering without reason nor does it feel emotionally manipulative. There’s core values in the center of the book and it gives the story its heartbeat. This definitely is shown through Lena’s seriously complex relationship with her mother, and I’m interested to see how that’s dealt with in Chaos.

    The romance in this series is so on point, and that quote you include just showcases that perfectly. It’s definitely not a toxic relationship and it truly promotes a healthy relationship build on foundations of mutual respect and love. AND IT’S JUST SO CUTE. Ahhhhh. I really can’t wait to read this book and fall in love with their relationship once again.

    The plot does sound a bit jilted to me from what you’ve described. With the constant build up of suspense only to be tucked away soon after it would feel frankly repetitive and would likely annoy me to not see these scenarios further developed or cut out in entirety.

    Awesome review Wendy! (:
    Larissa recently posted…Review + Giveaway: Atlantia by Ally Condie

    • Wendy Darling

      Hooray! I’m glad it finally got there and now you have it to enjoy this weekend! I’ll be on the lookout for your review. I think most fans will like what she did, and I agree–I’m always relieved when series enders don’t pull a shocking moment that makes you scratch your head and leaves you disappointed. Enjoy!

  2. LizF

    I finished Chaos this morning and admit to be being a little disappointed. I felt like you, Wendy, that just when I thought I was prepared for the ultimate sacrifice with it’s huge emotional payoff, the punch to the gut was wasted by an almost easy out. I wasn’t looking forward to what seemed like a forgone conclusion, but I was READY for it.

    This is all not to say that I don’t love this series and think that it does so many great things that we don’t usually see in YA. But I felt like Chaos jumped around too much, we were not allowed to feel any loss long enough before we moved on from the near misses and some relationships skimmed the surface instead of delving in and really making us care. I think that Fractured took the risks that we should have seen more of in Chaos as the story wound to its conclusion and bc it didn’t, the story suffered for it.

    But, but…..Malachi!! ❤️❤️❤️

    • Wendy Darling

      Ahhhh, Liz. I’m sorry to hear you were disappointed. I admit that once I got that idea in my head, it was really hard to let go of it, so the ending–which objectively is perfectly solid/satisfying–didn’t have quite the emotional impact I was hoping for, either. The feelings have been so intense and mature throughout this book that I thought the author could totally pull this off, so I was surprised by the more conventional ending. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought that’s how it was going to end up, though! Do you think there was a different ending originally planned? It was set up so perfectly for that that I wonder. Agreed on the jumping around, too–I think focusing on fewer missions/ideas would have benefited the overall story, on a plot level and on a emotional one. I keep saying emotion, but we expect that out of this series!

      I actually still like CHAOS more than FRACTURED, but SANCTUM was definitely the strongest book–maybe this would have done better as duology? I don’t know. I still love and recommend this series to everyone, though, especially now that it’s concluded.

      *sigh* MALACHI. So wonderful. Are you going to read this extra story collection she’s publishing? I’ve been so curious about all these Malachi Tumblr posts I’ve seen her putting up, but I’ve never read them. Reading them all at once would be easier, I think.

      • LizF

        I think I liked Fractured best because the ending took the difficult, cliffhang-ery path! I bawled at the unfairness of it all but that made it so satisfying (if heartbreaking). Hmm, not sure a duology would have worked better since I thought the first two fit together pretty well and she couldn’t have ended the series where Fractured did! I guess I just didn’t like the choices Chaos made and would have preferred a darker, more impactful ending.

        I don’t think I will read the collection she’s putting out. I kept up with a lot of Malachi’s journal entries on tumblr but ultimately lost interest, maybe reading them all at once IS better?

    • Wendy Darling

      No spoilers! At least, nothing you wouldn’t really expect, other than the ones hidden by the spoiler tag, of course. But I’m so glad you liked SANCTUM and now have the next two books waiting for you. The second book has a cliffie, so you’re lucky you don’t have to wait.

      And yes, I’m always so nervous going into series enders, but I thought this one was satisfying overall, even if it didn’t go in the direction I was expecting.

  3. Kim

    Okay I only skimmed this because I want to be as unspoiled as possible for this series but I AM SO EXCITED TO START IT SOON. I have only read the bolded words and I can barely contain how excited I am to read. Dark? Nightmarish suffering? Bleak savagery? Swoony moments? SIGN ME UP FOR ALL OF IT.

    The romance sounds like it’s nearly everything that I love. I need to read these books. Like, now. (As soon as I’m done BLLB!!)

    • Wendy Darling

      SO MUCH SUFFERING. :D Particularly in this book, which is the darkest of them all.

      There aren’t any spoilers in this review (aside from the hidden one, that is), but I’m glad you got enough out of the bolded text to whet your appetite some more! I cannot wait to hear what you think of it. I’m pretty sure you will enjoy.

      AND WHAT, YOU’RE READING BLLB!!! A copy is finally on its way to me and we must talk when we’re both done. Omg. You sly thing, I was on your GoodReads just yesterday and you haven’t breathed a word.

  4. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    Glad this has your seal of approval, Wendy! I wasn’t the biggest fan of Fractured–I felt Sanctum was the significantly stronger of the two novels–but I’m glad to see this is a satisfactory ending. I’m always frightened to pick up a finale since I inevitably feel as if it will falter in some regard but I find that I remember so few elements of Fractured that I’ll likely walk into this with little to no expectation and hopefully be pleasantly surprised. Wonderful review, dearest–I must get to this one soon.
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…ARC Review: Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross

    • Wendy Darling

      I have to agree that SANCTUM was the strongest novel, followed by CHAOS. I liked FRACTURED, but like everyone else, I was disappointed that Malachi was absent for so much of it, and the setting/tone is different for much of the story. But yes, I thought this was a solid conclusion, and I was nervous about it, too.

      As I was reading CHAOS, I was wondering what you would think of it, actually. When you’ve had a chance to read it, let me know what you think of the spoiler in my review–I’m wondering if anyone else thought it was going to go down that path, too! Or maybe I’m just crazy.

  5. kimbacaffeinate

    I don’t think I have read a bad review for this yet, and despite a few quibbles it looks like you were satisfied. I think I will pick up book one and give it a go :)
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Tied by Emma Chase

    • Wendy Darling

      Kimba, you have to read this series! You’ll fall in love with Malachi FOR SURE. I’m glad you’re going to give SANCTUM a try, I’ll be on the lookout to see what you think.

  6. Layla

    I’ve never read this, though I’ve been meaning to read Of Metal and Wishes and Scan. I was wavering (haven’t been in the mood to jump into a series; so engrossed in Animorphs!) until I read that you’d recommend them to fans of Rose and Dimitri. High praise indeed! To-read it is. They are. Whatever.

    Also, a million yays for love interests who think that the MC is strong but want to protect them if they can. Yesssss. I have been on a romance novel binge lately and am irritable about this.
    Layla recently posted…Chaos by Sarah Fine: review

    • Wendy Darling

      I loved OF METAL AND WISHES–I hope you do get to read that this year. (I haven’t finished SCAN just yet.) It’s so dark and lovely, which is a strange thing to say about something set in a slaughterhouse.

      GOTS is mostly just dark, hah. It’s very dynamic, though, and the first book delves into some heavy themes, since Lela’s friend committed suicide, which is what leads Lela to search for in hell. The author’s a psychologist, and you can see how that informs some of the themes in her writing–though they’re just present if you look for them, not hammered in. And YES, Rose + Dimitri. I have never compared any other couple to them, but you’ll see what I mean.

      I was just telling Mary below that I’ve been reading a lot of fun and fluffy romance books, too. I love discovering new authors whose books I like, I’m so picky about the genre these days.

  7. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I’ve heard really good things about this series, though I haven’t read it…and I’m fully intrigued by the Lela and Malachi romance you mentioned! Dark and bleak’s a bit of a challenge, though (I’m needing some fluffy, fun reads lately!).
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Do It In 140: Tweet-Short Reviews (7)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh my gosh, you should read this, Mary! It’s written a lot like adult urban fantasy, and the relationship dynamics are awesome. I know you’d love by Lela and Malachi, and together, they are perfect.

      I get what you mean, though–I have to be in the right mood to tackle dark, too. Right now I’m splitting my time between fluffy romance books and YA horror, which is kind of a funny mix.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, I gotta admit I am not a huge fan of these covers either, and this one’s my least favorite, hah. Don’t let that stop you from reading these, though! At least sometime when you’re in the mood for something daaaaark.

    • Wendy Darling

      This series is so good! I’m happy to hear you were satisfied by it, too. And I agree, this ender struck the right tone in relation to the rest of the series–I’m always so nervous after being disappointed by a number of YA series enders.

  8. Nikki

    I’ve had Sanctum on my TBR pile for a while. It definitely sounds dark and interesting so I’ll have to pick up soon now that the series is complete.

    • Wendy Darling

      If you like dark, this is definitely the series for you. It’s dark in a way I haven’t experienced anywhere else in YA–it’s not about gore or violence, necessarily, it’s more the world and the outlook.

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m glad you already have the trilogy waiting on your Kindle! That’s one of the good things about binging a series, that you don’t have to wait between cliffies. :) Prepare to be swept away, Pili. Be sure to get out and see some sites between books, hee hee. BUT I expect a full report when you’re done!