Monday, March 21, 2016

The After-Room by Maile Meloy, 2016

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It’s 1955, and Benjamin Burrows and Janie Scott are trying to live a safe, normal life in America. It’s not easy, when they have the power to prevent nuclear disaster, and sinister forces are circling. Soon the advice of a mysterious, unscrupulous magician propels Janie and Benjamin into danger, and toward the land of the dead.
Meanwhile, their friend Jin Lo washes up on a remote island where an American spy is stationed, and finds herself on the trail of a deadly threat in China. But she’s on the other side of the world—how can Janie and Benjamin reach her?
The triumphant finale in the trilogy that began with Maile Meloy’s bestselling, critically acclaimed
The Apothecary, and continued in its captivating sequel, The Apprentices, The After-Room is full of enchantment and heart, with Ian Schoenherr’s stunning illustrations throughout.
(432 pages)

This is, I have to say, a very strange trilogy.

But I love it. I can't help loving it, even when I'm wrinkling my brow and going "huh?" This was the perfect conclusion to the trilogy, wrapping things up for everyone in such a way that just makes sense.

I was a little worried going in about the theology, considering the way the characters can actually send their minds to talk with dead people. It's very strange, yes, but there's no direct reference to any specific religion and Meloy keeps it ambiguous enough that I think readers can interpret everything however they want to.

Honestly, I don't have much to say about this book because it is such a peculiar gem that so perfectly ends the series. This series is one of those things that you either love or hate, and I love it - but at the same time, sometimes I pause and go "hmm, weird." The strange mix of science and magic (i.e. alchemy) works wonderfully throughout the series, and the plots of all three books are realistic and compelling - I honestly felt the characters' emotions bleed into me as I read, making me laugh and cry (and occasionally blush) along with them.

The entire trilogy is one of those things that I have a hard time analyzing, because it's so unique and flawless that I can't think of any ways to change it. No, wait, I do have one way: the ending. I would have liked a little bit of a punchier final scene. Then again, I was mulling it over in my head for like a week afterward, so maybe the slightly underrated ending was the way to go. Hmm . . .

Gah, I know I sound so conflicted and confused! Just read the series for yourself, and you can make up your own mind about it. I'd love to know whether you love it or hate it!

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