Series: Guardians of the Shadowlands #3
Published by Skyscape on October 7, 2014
Pages: 388 pages
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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 » After Malachi is saved, he’s completed his mission and is set free–and I somehow got the impression the book was going to end with them separated, since Lela still has to serve her time. I was prepared for a bittersweet, noble ending in which she was sad about his departure, but happy for his freedom and hopeful that they would be reunited one day in the future. After getting that stuck in my head, I kind of wish that had been what happened. I know, it’s so cruel, but how epic and sad that would have been! I’m a sucker for tragedy, what can I say. Instead, we get things tied up rather neatly and a happily ever after for Lela and Malachi. « Hide 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.
If 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.