Third Book Syndrome

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Book: Half Lost
Author: Sally Green
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published On: 31st March 2016
Other Books by Sally Green: Half Bad, Half Wild.

Blurb: The Alliance is losing the war, and their most critical weapon, seventeen-year-old witch Nathan Brynn, is losing his mind. Nathan’s tally of kills is rising, and yet he’s no closer to ending the tyrannical rule of the Council of White Witches in England. Nor is Nathan any closer to his personal goal: getting revenge on Annalise, the girl he once loved before she committed an unthinkable crime. An amulet protected by the extremely powerful witch Ledger could be the tool Nathan needs to save himself and the Alliance, but this amulet is not so easily acquired. And lately Nathan has started to suffer from visions: a vision of a golden moment when he dies, and of an endless line of Hunters, impossible to overcome. Gabriel, his closest companion, urges Nathan to run away with him, to start a peaceful life together. But even Gabriel’s love may not be enough to save Nathan from this war, or from the person he has become.

The third book in a trilogy is always a tricky one to master. Originally, I believed the second book to be the definer in whether a series sinks or swims, but in recent years that’s switched to the third book.

Given how much I adored Half Wild, you can understand how I approached Half Lost with both excitement and trepidation. The books so far have been so good, so gripping, and the end of Half Wild had me squealing incoherently. Would Half Lost live up to my hopeful expectations?

Not entirely, I’m afraid.

The problem with a book that is so bloody and with such a high death count is that it’s inevitably a challenge to keep up with the characters. It honestly took me a moment or two to remember who Arran was, so many characters have been introduced and/or murdered since the start of the series.

The second problem with such a high death count is that if any ‘mainstream’ characters are facing death – I use this term to describe any character who’s lasted at least half a book in this trilogy – it’s harder to make it pack such a punch. In this trilogy, you are introduced to characters so you feel as if you start to know them and then BAM! They’re dead. Essentially, for every death of a named character, however minor, you feel a little something. When this persists, you can eventually feel nothing. Then when moments of crisis occur in a plot, the reader has been numbed to the emotions of it.

I admire Sally Green for sticking with such a bloody narrative, with all of these problems to tackle in the process. It’s not an easy path for a third book in a trilogy to take. The reader is looking for resolution, for the journey previously plotted to arc onwards towards its final climax, be that a happy or sad ending.

Unfortunately, I found that because of the body-count and the focus on how Nathan was feeling, the plot seemed to fade into the background. Nathan’s emotions are so important in this series that it is naturally hard to be pulled away from them; it needed to be done, however, and it wasn’t. Everything became secondary to Nathan’s emotions. As a reader, all I felt I was experiencing were Nathan’s emotions and the ever-increasing death tally. In her previous books in the trilogy, Sally Green manages to balance this with spurring the plot forwards. Here, the plot seems to be secondary to everything else. And that doesn’t work.

The pressure of ending a trilogy is always huge. I think of trilogies I’ve already read which have nailed their endings (Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, Shattered by Teri Terry) and ones that have failed to do so (Allegiant by Veronica Roth, most recently). It’s not a job I envy, trying to pull together the perfect ending – I say perfect ending meaning one that can be perfectly catastrophic as well as perfectly happy. Chaos Walking, anyone?! – but one that MUST be done.

I have several feelings about the ending, which I won’t discuss here explicitly in the interests of keeping this spoiler free. However, when you write an ending that makes the plot explode out of its ears, make sure that every action and reaction makes sense within the confines of this plot. Anything horrible should be absolutely necetumblr_n85vp2OTDm1tqfuuyo1_500ssary to the plot, or it feels as if the reader has been betrayed. Anything brilliant should be earnt and not just tied together for the sake of having a happy ending. It needs to stay true to the characters, and it needs to make sense within their narratives and the overarching narrative of the book/trilogy as a whole.

Sadly, I’m not convinced Half Lost has achieved this.

5 Reasons You Should Read This Trilogy:
1) So much intrigue. Right from the start of Half Bad.
2) The way Nathan becomes an outsider was an aspect I really enjoyed reading earlier in the trilogy. You understand and sympathise entirely with how he has ended up where he is.
3) The way the conflict builds as the series progresses.
4) If you enjoy some blood, gore, and murder then this is the series for you! Green certainly doesn’t shy away from this.
5) Witches. Waaaaay cooler than vampires.

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