Bright Ruin (Dark Gifts #3) by Vic James (2018)
Fiction | Urban Fantasy | Dystopia
“Magically gifted aristocrats rule–and commoners are doomed to serve. But a rebellion threatens the old order. The dystopian trilogy that began with Gilded Cage and Tarnished City concludes.
In a world where the lower classes must endure ten years of forced service to unfairly advantaged, magically powered rulers, a teenage boy dreams of rebellion, his older sister yearns for love and knowledge, and a dangerous young aristocrat seeks to remake the world with his dark gifts. In Bright Ruin, the final book in the trilogy set in modern-day England, our heroes will lead a revolution that will transform–or destroy–the world.”
Book One: GILDED CAGE
pooled ink Review:
Hi, so I’m going to be up front here and now that I will not be toeing the line to preserve your eyes from glimpsing spoilers (or you can just scroll down to the “One Day Later” image from SpongeBob and skip the ranting haha). If you don’t want spoilers then this is not the review for you, okay? Don’t yell at me for spoiling something because I’m warning you right now lol. I literally just finished this book so I have several emotions that I need to vent somewhere and my blog seems like a pretty good place considering that’s why I made it in the first place. Anyways…onwards!
[Warning: Spoilers, rambling, and ranting ahead. Buckle in.]
I AM IN A RAGE. I AM SCREAMING. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
I’m not kidding, if I was the Hulk I would’ve split my pants by now I’m so pissed by that ending. I just need to get this out and then I’ll rewind and do an overall review on the book/trilogy, yeah?
The ending, in the grand scheme of things, was pretty excellent. I was wondering how she would resolve things and honestly it was brilliant. Well done. I clap for thee. BUT I have a few QUALMS. Firstly, that effing Bouda will get what she wanted. NO. NONONONONONO. She has been on my hit list since book one and the fact that she not only lives but will get what she wanted????? ABSOLUTELY EFFING NOT. I cannot forgive this. She was basically female Hitler and yet just because she was a female and therefore had to work soooo hard to get so far in politics we’re supposed to be like okay? I DISAGREE. I needed her to die. Maybe I’ll write a fanfic where she’s shot by a sniper the next day. Ah yes, how satisfying. (No I’m not crazy I just really really hate her lol).
My second qualm IS THE EFFING ENDING. THE LAST PAGE. NONONONONONONO. I hate those vague, those cruelly vague types of endings AND THAT IS WHAT WE GOT. I’m so mad. I mean, some details we can piece together like Silyen being resurrected like the Wonder King (albeit with quite the delay lol) and that Silyen probably figured out how to open and walk through doors and hence popped into Luke’s room and whisked him away BUT I DON’T LIKE GUESSING. I LIKE KNOWING. Okay yes as a writing technique it was effective I suppose as it leaves us with awe and curiosity and a burning intrigue that will keep these characters alive in our minds for years and years. BUT I STILL DON’T LIKE IT. I’m okay with semi-open endings but gahhhhh this is going to annoy me forever haha sort of like the ending to the movie Inception. I both want to applaud it and light it on fire.
I’m more mad about Bouda though. I refuse to let that one go. [Warning: Hunger Games spoiler up ahead lol] When Katniss killed Coin instead of President Snow I screamed in delight because that shift of her aim was effing brilliant. BRILLIANT writing right there. Symbolic, powerful, game-changing, and oh my gosh I was applauding both when I read it and when I watched the movie. But this nonsense??? Allowing Bouda to suddenly have her way and be “elected” into power and she’s suddenly like sure yeah we can have democracy and whatever??? NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. I want her dirty laundry aired and have her tried for her crimes AND FOUND GUILTY. Prison if not execution, come on!
“Innocent people always die, Luke. It’s usually the guilty that live.”
AND WHAT ABOUT COIRA???? OMG. NOOOOOOOOOO. THAT IS TOO MANY LOOSE THREADS WHAT THE HECK NOOOOOOO. You can’t just bring up that entire “impossibility” and mystery of her disappearance and then never give us a damn answer.
Where was she??? Did the King find Coira and Silyen found the King and so Sil went to fetch Luke and they all met at Farr Carr??? Maybe?? And Luke and Coira had a thing going on, is he suddenly over that just because of one kiss??? Like honestly, what was that all about?? You care so much about one person and then a kiss just makes you go “person who?” or something?? That’s dumb. I just feel like if Luke and Sil are to end up together (I mean everyone except Abi reacted like of course they’d be together when they kissed) then it should’ve been set up better. Luke showed 0% interest up until that surprise kiss and really Sil’s interest in Luke seemed more like a prized lab rat for Skill experimentation than a crush (or more) until this last book when he’s suddenly throwing out obvious looks and making obvious innuendos. The groundwork for that relationship needed to have been planted way better in the previous books and since it wasn’t it makes me feel like it was a decision the author made later on when it was too late to revise what’s been published and therefore felt…odd. Not as odd for Silyen to start flirting as for Luke to suddenly swoon from one effing kiss, but still it just didn’t quite vibe for me. (And does Luke just get feelings for anyone he’s around too long? Dumb. Lol.)
Same goes for the whole Jenner betrayal too. His relationship with Abi and his core self were set up too strongly in the first book for that betrayal to make any true amount of sense. Once again it felt like an idea the author came up with after the first book was published and decided it’d be okay because it’ll be a shocking twist. But shocking is one thing and believable is another and to me his sudden decision to hand over his love interest to his eternally loathed family to be brutally and tortuously murdered made zero sense. I honestly thought he was just pretending to fool his father and actually had a plan to help stop the Blood Faire…and then that never happened because suddenly Jenner is an evil, pathetic, addict willing to do anything for even the chance of gaining Skill. It just totally negated his established character!!
The only thing that could make sense is his dad’s ability to sway people (we find out it’s quite strong in book 3) but then why wouldn’t he have done so far sooner? Never mind that Jenner was ignored before because of his lack of Skill, he could’ve been useful to his dad sooner than this sudden “plot twist”. I just don’t like when a character negates itself. If you establish a character strongly in one persona then they must stick with it (unless it was a ruse from the start which it wasn’t for Jenner, he was genuinely sweet and kind-hearted) and Jenner totally jumped tracks and was annoyingly unbelievable. Set up hidden clues, set up subtle potential, then slam us with a plot twist. Otherwise just get out. (Like the rules of improv: you cannot negate what has been established, you can only agree and/or cleverly twist it).
I mean, maybe (and that’s a big maybe) if Jenner had been able to receive and wield a bit of Skill for a time (what Silyen did does not count although I can see how that might’ve been the first super weak “clue” and then his outburst with Jackson (which also seemed out of character for him) was probably a second weak “clue”) I could believe he’d become addicted to the need of it like a drug addict having a hit and needing more, but I still wouldn’t ever believe he’d sell out Abi to be strung up and ripped apart by a rabid mob for entertainment to get it.
Also blaming Lord Jardine’s unusually strong Skill for persuasion seemed a bit of a cop-out excuse to help redeem some of the characters. I mean, it did help build up his impressive resume of evil so I don’t hate it but it also felt a bit like a weak “Oh hey!” excuse for some of the other characters’ terrible deeds. He couldn’t force someone to do something, he could just sway them strongly from time to time. But whatever. Out of everything else I can let this one go I guess lol.
And hey WHY is the King immortal??? That was never explained well. Is Silyen now immortal too??? What will Silyen be doing in this new world?? AND GAVAR! He’s still technically married to that snake, Bouda! But she tried to have him tortured and basically killed, plus she despised his beloved little daughter Libby so let’s be real!! There’s no way he can stay married to her!!! I HAVE SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. AHHHHH. I hate this. I really really hate this.
Oh I can’t take this. I’ll finish this review later lol.
Hi there, I’m back. Still upset but I’m ignoring that and let’s just talk about the book (sans ending lol).
Well, if nothing else you can tell how fantastic this trilogy is just by how emotional it’s made me. Ho-hum books don’t send you into a rage do they? And yes, despite how much I hate the ending, I will 100% be recommending this trilogy to people with any interest in books from dystopia to fantasy and everything in between because it’s so so good. (Also so I can have someone to rage with over the ending haha!)
The pace doesn’t slow in this book one bit. The wild ride that really kicks off in Tarnished City continues straight on in this final installment although I will say that after the shocks and twists in book two I was better prepared to hold any semblance of hope at a distance with this book.
“People criticize my Gavar. But I tell you, that boy is unusual among his family: what you see is what you get. Which is a virtue, even if you don’t much like what you see.”
The characters, when compared to when we were first introduced to them, have changed significantly yet remain the same at heart (except Jenner) and that shows just how excellent the story developed them. They have been irrevocably changed due to circumstance as they’ve been pushed to their limits and shown not only what they might do but who they truly are when tested. Each and every character in this series felt real, complicated, and memorable in their own way.
Silyen’s definition of “obvious” was different from most people’s. Rather like his definition of “right” and “wrong.” A Concise Silyen Dictionary would be a handy thing, Luke thought.
A big aspect of this trilogy is this debate of morals and ethics surrounding power, Skill, and equality. Equality is an equation never solved (because it never will be) for even when Skill is removed there remains power and wealth to be had. But it has been an interesting exploration of this everlasting debate as the characters each proclaim their beliefs and stances time and again in this tyrannical world and as their views shift with time or circumstance but perhaps never quite change. So yes, this is not only a thrilling series of fantasy and magic, but it is also dystopian and takes a deep dive into psychology and ethics that will fascinate with each turn of the page. In other words, there’s real meat in this story and it brings the series to a whole other level.
Before the Equals oppressed you, your own monarchs did, too.
Another reason why this series is such a success is the villains within it. They not only are ruthless, heartless, typical villains, but they are clever and win many times over. Villains easily felled are not challenge enough for the world James has created nor the plot she has established and so she made them nigh indestructible. Regardless of what anyone wants to believe, without Silyen they would’ve likely failed or at the very least had a long bloody war ahead of them with no guarantee of victory at the end of it (In a way Sil was a bit like the atomic bomb. Swift, brutal, but effective). So while I would’ve liked the “good guys” to have won at least a couple of rounds, as it was I feel that the villains and obstacles and twists were written with frustrating realism. Well done, James. Well done.
“I love the word ‘can’t,'” said Silyen Jardine. “I find it the most stimulating in the English language.”
Look, I could honestly discuss this trilogy for hours (and as it is my review is already far too long and rambling ha) so I’ll just say that this trilogy was fantastic. Incredibly well-written from start to finish, the alternating POVs were timed with lethal precision designed to catapult you into the next chapter and the next, a world-building so stunning as it weaves itself into the world we know ourselves will have your imagination in a firm grip, and other than romantic plot lines that either bloomed or died with little sense behind it and an ending full of questions that I loathe, the ending was as epic and unforeseen as the series deserved.
Bright Ruin is a lethal ending to this thrilling trilogy and it will leave you gasping for breath as it concludes this dark and bloody ride with an ending most appropriately spectacular and mysterious. With a pace that brooks no argument, characters that will rage until the end, and a plot that twists into such intricate knots and loops that to try and guess its aims will be a useless waste of time, this trilogy is one deserving of far more acclaim. Do not pass up this title for it deserves to be read in full.
Purchase Here: Bright Ruin
Check out the rest of the series: Gilded Cage (book 1), Tarnished City (book 2)