is Lois Lowry's final book in her series that started with The Giver
. And, despite her marvelous prose, it is largely a disjointed and unnecessary book except for tying up loose ends.
The book is split into three parts, "Before," "Between," and "Beyond." Before is basically a retreading of The Giver
evens from the perspective of Claire, Gabe's birth mother. It breaks no new ground and doesn't really add anything that The Giver
didn't already do better. We never feel secure or contentment while in the society when seeing it through Claire's eyes, and while the revelation that she feels love for her son is a compelling character motivation, the plot ends rather abruptly with her being lost at sea.
Between is probably the best rendered of the three sections, where Lowry introduces us to another society in her world and the people it inhabits. There, Claire receives the character growth and interpersonal relationships that Lowry excels at. Her relationships with the healer Alys and Fierce Einar are careful and kind, bringing out more to Claire than simply "damaged mother looking for her son" that Before set up. The long progress and build up of her determination to scale the cliff that keeps them isolated in order to see her son is a very well-earned rising action.
The third part, Beyond, is when it all goes to ruin. As a disclaimer I've only read The Giver
and not the other parts of the series, but to recycle a villain dubbed as a personification of Evil and introduce magical special powers to handle a conflict that largely removes Claire, the character we followed for the first half of the book, is pretty jarring (if not somewhat ludicrous). Gabe's journey to defeat the Trademaster has no careful development, he is simply told by Jonas he needs to do it to save his mother, so the whole climatic fight feels like a disjointed mess at the end of it.
is beautifully written and, despite a lot of momentum disrupting issues of characterization or logical oversights, reads well. If you were to read it on its own you might appreciate it for an ensemble book that deals with love, loss, and reconciliation. But this is an unworthy successor to The Giver
and still a far cry from Lowry's best as a storyteller. I think my disappointment that I know she could and has done so much better, including the preceding sections of the book, that left it at only "it was okay" two stars for me. Read it if you want to see a resolution, but it's not a wholly satisfying one.