I find the journey I am taking with this series to be very interesting. I enjoyed the first book well enough, although didn’t fall head over heels for it, the second book strengthened the various characters and their positions, although the love triangle it brewed was frustrating yet humorous and very nicely done (more on that in a moment), but now all that has been outshone by the third and penultimate book. It took things to a whole new level, showed Sophronia... well, I’ll get onto that in about four minutes. Just, it makes it a little difficult to then go and review the second book because it’s all rather clouded.
I feel like there were two main points to the plot arc of this one: make Sophronia a realer character and create a multi faceted, multi person romance for her. And it did both of those things marvelously.
I was rather hesitant at the beginning when all the girls, Sophronia’s best friends, turned on her with fickleness and she had to fend for herself- it frustrated me that this element of bullying, however realistic, had to be bought into such a story (the friends, to be honest, play a very slim role in this edition), and it didn’t feel true to their characters, whatever the motives. I didn’t ever really reconcile with that early half, even when the later one appealed to my senses better.
So, Sophronia starts up a prim romance with an Earl’s son, mostly just teasing and practice on her behalf, and we start to see her confliction about Soap, and although I enjoyed many elements of this love triangle I simply love Sophronia and Soap too much to have been on board. It also felt rather unnecessary. Very well done and useful to get into Sophronia as a person, but Soappp!
Sophronia, for her part truly does fill out her character in this one. She takes a risk and makes a mistake that leaves her with deep guilt and pain. I realised, at that point, how much she had grown on me. Which is basically to say: endlessly.
I don’t know what to say, months later. I am still truly stunned, speechless (except for “I loveddddd it!”) and blown away by the mastery that is this edition, the penultimate, in a series I have enjoyed from the beginning and, with this, grown to love mightily.
After the events at the end of the second book Sophronia is changed, weighed down. She blames herself and quietly holds herself accountable. The impression of this was intense, striking.
Most of this book takes place, intriguingly, on a train, and I do feel like that is hard to achieve in a way that keeps the plot moving (none of the puns), but it made for some truly fantastic moments, not to mention close quarters for Sophronia & Co. (minus, sadly, Agatha) to fight for victory and be close, and also for the greatly aforementioned love triangle to spark, what with both contenders being on the train. In the single carriage.
It’s terribly hard to describe what the last quarter of the book did to me. It was emotional, riveting, intense and horribly moment to moment. I felt so intensely held by the story, so afraid for and with Sophronia, and I’m sure I held my breath (or at least breathed very shallowly) for a good few pages.
This heat up. Sophronia is a glorious, fierce, imaginative pile of wonder. Soap is so incredibly sweet I could pop. Dimity is better- and more present- than ever, living my fear of blood to the end. Sidheag is chummy and feels the full brunt force of her friends love. It’s terrifying, inventive, terribly high stakes and exciting as anything.
So rather splendid all round.