Am I ready for this? NOT EVEN A LITTLE. This trilogy has taken over my life for the past couple of years, and when I say that I have thought about it consistently every single week since the release of There Will Come a Darkness (review linked), I am not even kidding a little. Y’all know this, too, because you’ve witnessed me, live in action, talking about this and As the Shadows Rises (review linked again) way too many times on the blog for the last couple of years. I just love these books so much, and I cannot contain myself.
There are definitely going to be spoilers in this, though they were not as big as I thought they were going to be. This is my first time reading it, so this review is going to be hectic, as well, and not nearly as well thought out & put together as the first two, so buckle up and get ready.
The Keeper of the Word
Can we just, briefly, talk about the first five chapters of this part? Or even just the title of it?? I am not okay. I am so far from okay, and I will never be okay again. I opened up the book, finally, weeks after it released, and immediately started shouting, “LEAVE JUDE ALONE!” I didn’t even get past the section title page! This does not bode well, and I’m so happy. Those first five chapters were so stressful, too. I was just in a constant state of panic for about forty pages straight waiting to see Anton’s name as the chapter header, so of course Pool made him the fifth chapter. We can’t assuage anyone’s fears too quickly! Reading about him & Jude separated is definitely going to slowly and painfully destroy me, and I really shouldn’t be as excited about that as I am, but that means they get to reunite eventually, and it’ll be glorious!
(Satan save me if they don’t.)
I should have known. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. I just–leave Jude aloneeeeeeee. Honest to goodness, I got up three separate times in the last two chapters of this section because I a) could not handle Anton & Jude finally being reunited and b) LEAVE JUDE ALONE! I want to try to be coherent in this review, but it’s so hard when everyone is trying to kill Jude, and it’s so damn well done that I’m over here like “NO WHY but also yesssssss.” This is awful. The way that Pool is weaving in pieces from the very damn beginning and pulling together the earliest bits of lore to not only fully flesh out her story, but to bring it all home is just–it’s magnificent, okay, and I can be mad about everyone coming for Jude even while appreciating that it’s absolutely freaking brilliant. As soon as we got to that last before chapter in this section, keeper of the word my ass, get away from me and my Paladin boy.
This really was an excellent beginning, and even though it’s going to make me tear my hair out with stress, I also can’t wait to see how Pool is not going to kill Jude because I swear to all that is unholy, if this book ends with Jude dead and Anton grieving, I will come for everyone. No one will be safe.
The Edge of the World
This middle section is just classic Katy Rose Pool. There’s so much happening in it, whether that’s plot-forward movement or character development or world-building, and it’s amazing. Pool has such a mastery over her writing that her stories become these intricate multifaceted journeys that require your absolute full attention in order to properly appreciate. Off the top of my head, I really can only say that Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire is on par with this trilogy, and Ngan’s series is truly a work of art.
As always, character development is my favorite part, and my goodness, do we have some heavy angst in this. Not only is Anton keeping a huge secret from Jude, but Jude is really grappling with accepting that Anton might not need to be protected as much as he’s been raised to believe. And Jude’s entire life has been built around protecting and serving the Last Prophet that to then be forced to come to the realization that hey, what do you know, the Last Prophet is just a normal guy like anyone else–that’s literally life-altering for him. And it’s been such a journey for Jude over the entire trilogy, to go from this stern, stubborn, faith or death swordsman to someone that, when he discovers that the sacrifice of his life would mean the end of so much suffering, finally decides that he may be worth living, too. First book Jude would have cut his own damn head off, but third book Jude is like you know what, I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to want to not die, and I’m so happy for him. YOU ACTUALLY DESERVE THE WORLD, JUDE WEATHERBORNE! And my gosh, but the amount of scenes we’ve been gifted with of Jude & Anton alone in this section? Both making out while fully naked in a volcanic pool, but also working through healthy conversations about emotions?? I AM LIVING.
Many of the other characters have taken a back seat in this section, which makes sense given all that Anton & Jude are going through as we hurtle toward the end, but Beru has definitely taken a step forward, and it’s been wonderful to see her character grow. While I would give anything for her not to be in a constant struggle against an ancient god trying to break her will, that moment when Beru finally realizes that she is strong all on her own was just incredible.
But the part of her that was good, the part of her that had walked away from Ephyra in Medea, that had pushed her to Behezda to save Hector, that had come to care about every single person who had joined her on this journey, had proven to be stronger than every poisonous feeling that lurked in her heart. She was stronger.
She gazed down at Pallas. The god struggled against its seal, against the iron strength of Beru’s will.
Pallas’s gaze met hers again, and she knew that he saw it, too–her power; her strength; the vast, bottomless ocean of faith that he could never understand.
I just want to give Beru the biggest hug and promise her that everything is going to be okay BECAUSE YOU GOT THIS, GIRL! Also, though, lowkey hella nervous she doesn’t, but it’s all good! Ephyra & Hector are on their way!
Um, can we just? Take a moment to recognize the fact that Katy Rose Pool pulled a fast one and made all of us like Illya Aliyev? Literally never thought I’d see the day, but the way that she very gently wove his character development through the background of everything else was phenomenal. It came as literally no surprise that he’d made such a one eighty with his character because it’s just been slowly happening in small sentences here and there while everyone else has been off trying to save the world.
I meant to talk about Illya more, but I’m reminded of the gods damn plot right now, and WOW. This has taken some wild turns, and while a couple of those did feel like detours where we specifically needed to lead the characters toward something, so why not throw in some new characters really quick, there’s also been a lot of casual world-building as the main characters wander across the entire continent. We’ve seen so much more of the world in this book than in the previous two, and while Pool’s had to very quickly throw in new cities & characters along the way, she’s done it in a way that wove neatly into the current section and made sense in the larger story. And here’s a major spoiler, in case you were still reading because the rest of the spoilers have been pretty chill, but this one is endgame time of spoiler, so fair warning, but the Prophets?? Not gonna lie, I didn’t for one second think that they were alive. There’s more than 200 pages left when they set out to find them! Of hecking course they’re not alive! There is so much pain that can happen in 200+ pages, and there will be none if they’re alive! I still 100000% love that Pool makes them go on that journey, though, because Anton wouldn’t have been able to confront the very real truth of losing Jude enough to tell Jude about all the bullshit I’m still reeling from (not real bullshit, I’m just angry), Beru would never have come to terms with the fact that she is strong enough on her own, Ephyra would never have been forced to realize that hey, fancy that, she’s got friends, Jude would never have gotten around to actually believing in both himself and in the certainty that he deserves not only to live, but to be happy and loved, and Hassan would never have pulled his head out of his ass and finally started being someone fit for a throne. They have to go on this hopeless journey because they have to find themselves along the way, and while I was just like ah yes the monoliths are tombs, it was so well done.
Am I procrastinating? Am I afraid of the next section?
OH ARE YOU KIDDING ME THE LAST SECTION IS CALLED THE LAST PROPHET NO THANKS
The God of Ruin
I will admit, this section feels a little like well Anton had this vision, and we need to see it played out before we can actually get to the end, but it did also provide a lot of incredible character development for Jude. Acknowledging that he both doesn’t want to die, but also wants to live a big, bold life overflowing with love is such a departure from where he started out that I was screaming every time he said just about anything. He & Anton are absolutely heartbreaking in this section, particularly by the end, when they’ve both sort of given up, and don’t even get me started on the first I love you between them because that destroyed me.
I was really glad to see Beru regaining control, even if only for a little bit, and I’m curious to see how her humanity is going to continue to effect the god. It feels very much all or nothing right now, and I’m sure those last 100 pages are going to be utter madness. I’m definitely finishing it tonight, though, and I will undoubtedly have a lot of thoughts once I’m through, so we’re going to keep this section short and prepare ourselves for the worst while hoping desperately for even the barest minimum of not the worst. But that last section title, oh boy. I’m not ready.
The Last Prophet
I don’t even know where to start. This was perfect. 11/10 absolutely exceeded my expectations. It was a little convenient at times, but I also did not expect the death that did happen. I was honest to Satan crying during every single Anton & Jude chapter leading up to the end because I was convinced that Jude was going to die. And I feel like I should probably note that this is going to be some major spoilers here because I really want to talk about the ending. I’m so glad that Jude didn’t die. We got real close to it possibly happening, and I was actually weeping as I was reading the chapter where Anton is finally giving in and trying to crack open Jude’s esha to release the Sacred Word. Every time there was a line about how Jude wanted to live, how he wanted to let himself be loved and love in return for a lifetime–even now, thinking back to it, I feel a little teary. I just love Jude Weatherborne so damn much, and I cannot with how fond and relieved he was at Anton’s excitement over the baby carrots at the end! That fucking scene, okay! I was not prepared for Anton, sweet, traumatized, mind always in the gutter, will gamble his life away, bizarrely wholesome at the end as he’s kneeling in the dirt cupping two little carrot shoots?? I am a shell of my former self. This reminds me of the epilogue to Madeleine Roux’s House of Furies trilogy and utterly blessed I felt by the gift of that last chapter. Same, y’all. The last several chapters of this book just destroyed me in all the best ways. I mean? King let’s form a democracy Hassan?? Don’t even get me started! Ephyra being allowed a final moment with Beru and then being determined as all hell to pick herself back up and set off into the world to heal instead of murder?? STOP! I cannot, and though it wrecked me that Hector died, I’m also selfishly grateful that it wasn’t Jude. And honestly? It makes sense that it was Hector. His character arc has been leading toward something big like this, and if everyone had made it out alive from the final encounter with the god, it would have been just a little bit too unbelievable. As it stands, Jude living feels like cheating death twice (or five times, honestly, they go up against the god so many damn times in this book), and so, while I didn’t want Hector to die, someone had to, and it works really well with his character.
Okay, spoilers are done! This was just so good. There wasn’t a single moment of this book that I didn’t wholeheartedly love, and it was such a perfect conclusion. This trilogy has been a staple in my life for the last few years, as we all well know for the amount of times I’ve talked about it on the blog, and this was the most perfect ending for it. I don’t even want it to continue on forever and ever because Pool wrote an expertly crafted story that spanned across exactly the right amount of books, and I feel wholly satisfied at the end of it. There was so much love poured into this book, both for the characters and between them, and I just feel suffused with that love, even a full day removed from having finished it.
Anything else I say would just end up being repetitive. The Age of Darkness by Katy Rose Pool is easily one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, and I’m going to be thinking about it for a long damn time. I can’t wait until I get to read it again.