This book hit me in a million directions, and not all of them in a good way.
Spoiler-free summary: The grop tournament is getting underway, bringing old friends, old enemies, and new problems to Archie’s life in the Merge.
As this is Book 5 of 9, I will try to keep my review spoiler-free but with no promises. Go read the first volume, if you haven’t already because Shan is on a winning streak with this one.
I loved the camaraderie that grop provides and how both merged and submerged can set aside their differences for a short time. More than half the book is directly related to the tournament and how it affects the players and town. Old friends make surprise appearances and act as a catalyst for other characters to face their past and create a new future—one of their own design.
Having Family (Merged royalty) spectate the tournament also means the return of old enemies. Inez is still head over heels (sort of) for Kurtis, which influences her perception, and she lowers her guard too much. However, Archie is more protective of Inez and distrusts him more than ever… unfortunately, Archie is no match for Kurtis and his two companions.
I loved the book up until this point.
What happens to Archie made me angry—at Archie for being an idiot (again), at Shan for writing it (sorry), at the characters who held more power than I, and at me for getting this angry over a book.
Unlike Trials of Death (Saga of Darren Shan Book 5), where Darren had companions, mentors, and aides, poor Archie has no one.
Half of the entire third act was hard to read because I have become invested in Archie and his well-being.
But what makes me angrier is something that was said after Archie’s ordeal. In all her wisdom and clearly trying to help, Baba Jen gives Archie the “suck it up” line that no one wants to hear or should hear after being traumatized. Yes, Archie has people around him who love and care for him, who understand explicitly what he went through, and I love Winston for his reaction, but Baba Jen’s approach made me want to reach through the page and slap her silly.
I was very pleased to see another old friend make their appearance, and I am sure we will see more of their new friends in the next installment—Archie always pays his debts.
More clues were dropped as to Archie’s true past, and now I am so confused and enthralled. I can’t wait to see that puzzle piece finally settle into place.
This book is definitely darker than the previous four installments, and I would really advise people who don’t like personal trauma to tread carefully come the middle of the book. I wish I had known it was there so I could have been prepared for it; I care too much about Archie.
Can’t wait to read the next installment and see what happens next.