MY RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS. WORTH THE WAIT! 100% RECOMMENDED
Following the nightmares of the Goblin’s Gauntlet, Willow faces life with a broken spirit and a broken heart. She is easy prey for the seductive faerie prince, Theon Thornheart, who tempts her with a powerful, addictive elixir that warps her magic. Meanwhile, dark forces in Clarion set the stage for a new Game that will place humans, faeries, and goblins in a magical battle of wits. Does Willow have the strength to resist Theon’s temptation and the ability to restore the Balance of the realms?
I was expecting a great number of things from Auralict, but it surprised me–not once, but repeatedly. For a series I began back in middle school, it’s moved in an impressively mature direction, balancing the beautiful, magical world of Mistolear with the unparalleled self-destructiveness of mental illness and addiction. The writing is still as crisp as I remember, and the plot is spectacularly paced, with tension, romance, heroism and magic blended well into the lives of characters I have always loved. I only wish the ending had been…a little more.
Nevertheless, I must commend Wood for sticking with her series through all the tribulations it’s faced. Willow is a heroine whose voice deserves to be heard, and I didn’t expect to connect with her on the level that I did. She’s headstrong and emotional, yes, but she lives with her heart on her sleeve, and her struggles with depression and addiction are both moving and empowering. Her message is a powerful one, and I absolutely adore the way her elixir addiction was handled–personally, I can’t imagine how it could have been better executed. It’s a fantastic portrayal of a very real world problem, and Willow deals with both the mental and emotional repercussions of her addiction in a very real way.
With a main cast of four, Auralict finds a surprising amount of time to develop, not only Willow’s character, but Brand’s and Theon’s as well. Brand has his weaker moments closer to the beginning of the book, but once his love for Willow rekindles, he truly becomes the knight in shining armour he has always hoped he would be. His love for Willow is powerful and genuine, but his feelings regarding her addiction are what truly brings his character to life: he’s conflicted, he’s afraid, and he makes a number of mistakes, but at the end of the day, it’s his unflinching resolution to remain with Willow that truly defines his character. As for Theon, he is very much the faerie prince Willow needed as she struggled with her depression. He plays an incredibly important role in her life, and even after betraying her, he spends almost the entirety of the book trying to make amends. I’ll be honest: I loved Theon. I loved his sense of humour, his cunning remarks, his intelligence, and his unflagging determination to make things right with Willow. He had a hard upbringing, and despite that, he’s remained a good man at heart, fighting for freedom and the freedom of his people even when it’s killing him to do so. As characters, Brand and Theon are definitely among the best in the series.
In regards to plot, I won’t lie: I stopped and shouted into empty rooms more often than not. There’s a death about halfway through the book that I wasn’t expecting at all, and the emotional whiplash was something I could not have prepared myself for. Dacia’s subplot also added yet another layer of suspense to the novel, and as a villain, she filled her role well: she had clear, believable motives, and her wickedly powerful magic made her feel like a real threat, much like the merciless goblin horde. Even minor characters in the novel, such as Willow’s mother and grandmother, or Brand’s father and step-mother, had their moments in the spotlight, adding depth to the story in a surprisingly well-executed way.
My sole complaint about the book was the ending. There’s a second major death in the last tenth of the book or so, and I hated how it was handled. This was a character that played an important role throughout the story, and the off-handed way their death was treated deeply saddened me. I can’t give too many details without spoiling who’s death I’m talking about, but suffice it to say that I was crushed to see only one character truly mourn them (and even that for only two paragraphs). Additionally, the epilogue left me with a lot of unanswered questions, and it really wasn’t what I expected at all. The sentiment was wonderful, but it’s difficult for me to accept that my last image of this series is of a horse being born (that’s not really a spoiler, I swear).
Even with that, Auralict is and remains a strong four-star read that I really, really enjoyed. There’s a lot of powerful elements to the novel that I’d hate to see overlooked, and for a conclusion to a trilogy that took nearly a decade to finally be published, I’m happy to say it was well worth the wait.