*I received a free ecopy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes used in this review were from an ARC and may be different in the final book.*
This book was not the end of the series (update: scratch that, it did end up being the end), but it did complete the story arc started in Withered + Sere. And since the two books do feel so connected, much of my review will pertain to both.
There’s just something magical about this series. It’s so dark, yet it’s so beautiful, and it’ll break your heart, but in a hopeful way rather than a sad one.
If you haven’t read the first book yet, you don’t understand how impossible this review is to write because there just aren’t words. Nothing I say can describe these books because the way they’re written is so different and beautiful. The very writing itself, not just the story, builds up into all these layers, and I could show you a million quotes, but it still wouldn’t do the books justice because it’s all the little details and nuances, the different voices Cavalo hears, the words and names each character uses, the repetition of specific phrases, the fluidity, the way everything comes together and works together and builds up onto each other—THAT is what makes it so amazing. It’s completely and utterly indescribable, and I’ve never encountered another book like it.
Another one of the amazing things about these books is Cavalo’s insanity. Does he actually hear Bad Dog and Lucas in his mind??? Every time he questioned it in this book, I would get so confused and conflicted! I feel like… I feel like he does. I believe. Does that make me insane? But he saw things this time, like a vision, even! I don’t know what’s real and what’s not sometimes in terms of what Cavalo hears and sees, and normally I hate when books are like that, but, in these books, it’s just part of the magic. It’s written in such a fluid way that, instead of confusing, it’s just wondrous. It sucks me in. And it’s never used in a sneaky way to mislead the reader, it’s simply part of the story.
Then there’s the characters, the broken, complex characters and their heart-breakingly beautiful, complex relationships. How is it that a dog, a robot, a psychopath, and a man who is maybe not quite a psychopath but still has rather questionable morals can make me so emotional and invested in them???
As for this book in particular, some of these characters were messed up (I’m looking at you, Lucas, especially in that “DO YOU TRUST ME NOW?” scene), but I felt for them. Even while they were repeatedly stabbing people, I just wanted to give them a big ol’ hug. (Ok, well, not during the stabbing. Maybe, like, after.) And every time Bad Dog or SIRS said something sweet or did something nice for the other even though they pretended to hate each other, I got all mushy inside. Every damn time. And when Cavalo felt something after seeing Lucas pet Bad Dog. And when Bad Dog was happy that the two men smelled like each other. And when SIRS caught them kissing and told Cavalo to “blink slowly.” And when Cavalo just needed to be touched. And when Lucas’s grin, that cocky, bloody, psychopath grin, faltered.
The bloody smile wavered. Trembled. And for the briefest of moments, the clever monster was gone, and in its place stood a young man, barely in his twenties, hurt and afraid, bloody and bruised, and didn’t Cavalo’s heart just ache then?
I don’t know about Cavalo’s heart, but mine sure did. Mushy. Mushy all over the place. I don’t think I even have organs in my body anymore because they all just melted at the touching moments in this book.
Of course the book was still dark and gruesome though. This one had maybe more violence because of the battles between Cottonwood and the Dead Rabbits, but it also had more light and hope.
It was also still quirky and funny. I just can’t get over that part when Hank asked if the marks on Lucas’s face were from the Dead Rabbits. The juxtaposition of the truth and the lie were so perfect. And there were other parts that cracked me up too, some with a dry kind of humor, others with what is maybe, ah… an acquired type of humor.
“The Dead Rabbit.”
Her eyes widened. “He can talk?”
“No. He wrote it in blood on the walls.”
The book was also intense sometimes. Like, completely-lost-in-the-moment, goosebumps level intense.
Anyway, I have done my absolute very best to explain how incredible these books are, even though I’m sure I’ve failed. If you’re deciding whether or not to start the series, I encourage you to read my review for the first book. If you’re deciding whether or not to continue it, well, this book had all the same stuff but with more violence, more hope, and Lucas’s fascinating backstory. To put it simply though, both books were dark, quirky, and beautiful with incredible writing and some of the most complex, broken characters I’ve ever read about, and I’ve loved every second I’ve spent reading them.
Anyone who likes dark yet quirky books, broken characters, and M/M romance that's more complex than it is romantic, who doesn't mind graphic violence, and who wants to read something powerfully unique and beautiful.
More Books in the Series:
In a world ravaged by fire and descending into madness, Cavalo has been given an ultimatum by the dark man known as Patrick: return Lucas to him and the cannibalistic Dead Rabbits, or the town of Cottonwood and its inhabitants will be destroyed.
But Lucas has a secret embedded into his skin that promises to forever alter the shape of things to come—a secret that Cavalo must decide if it’s worth dying over, even as he wrestles with his own growing attraction to the muted psychopath.
Cavalo has twenty-one days to prepare for war. Twenty-one days to hold what is left of his shredded sanity together. Twenty-one days to convince the people of Cottonwood to rise up and fight back. Twenty-one days to unravel the meaning behind the marks that cover Lucas.
A meaning that leads to a single word and a place of unimaginable power: Dworshak.