The short: 4/5 ✦. A heart-wrenching collection of stories with vibrant characters, both new and old, that ties up the series quite nicely.
Oh, my heart. =(
It’s been awhile since I finished The Darkest Minds series, but I didn’t have any trouble re-immersing myself in that world. Though the last novella in this three-part collection was written after the series completion, it was just as fast-paced, heart-wrenching, and well-written as all the rest. Finer plot details I may have forgotten, but Bracken’s characters were strong and vibrant enough to keep me engaged throughout.
And boy, this is one painful collection of stories . . .
“In Time” takes place after The Darkest Minds and before Never Fade. It explains what happened to Zu when she left the main group. Her adventure is briefly discussed in Never Fade, but here is the whole story. And it’s sad. Just plain sad. This guy was trying to be someone he wasn’t, Zu helped him find his true path – and he ends up ruined anyway. The snarky narration was a little labored, but I think Bracken was just really trying to differentiate his voice from Ruby’s – and Sam’s.
“Sparks Rise” is the even more depressing than “In Time,” and I guess I’d forgotten how tragic this series is, because I was totally thinking optimistic thoughts even as everything went to hell near the end of the story. Sam, I admit to not remembering who she was and I had to do a little Wiki search to clarify, but she was Ruby’s best friend at Thurmond until Ruby accidentally wiped her memory. Now we get to see things from her perspective, especially how truly, deeply (and realistically) horrible life is at the camp. A slight annoyance was that we are told repeatedly how brave and stubborn she is without really seeing it for ourselves, but this is forgivable because she is constantly beaten down and mentally destroyed just by daily living. Her childhood best friend, Lucas, appears and tries to change that, tries to rescue her, but . . . he too is ruined by his attempt at a good deed.
Needless to say, I had no small amount of trepidation when I began the last story, “Beyond the Night.” I was joyous to learn it was continuing Sam and Lucas’s tragic tale – but at what cost? This novella is the longest of the three and necessarily so, as it continues where In the Afterlight ended, tying up a few loose threads and letting us see what Ruby and the gang are up to now (still saving people and otherwise being awesome). Sam is free from Thurmond but unclaimed by her parents, and must go into hiding. She rescues Mia, Lucas’s sister, from the unclaimed system as well, because she needs her help to fix Lucas – poor, sad, broken, beaten Lucas. Terrifying hi-jinks ensue, and Ruby rescues the trio from snatchers, the government, and all the other horrible people trying to impose their will on this bunch of kids. I won’t spoil everything, as it’s truly amazing how it all comes together, but there is indeed a happy ending. (Actually, it was almost a little rushed, but I think it works considering the long buildup; by the end, we’re just overjoyed and relieved!)
These three novellas are an excellent closure to the wonderful The Darkest Minds series. It has its issues, but I do highly recommend all four books.
(P.S. to those in the United States: Happy Turkey Day!)
Header image: Through the Dark by Alexandra Bracken, published October 6th 2015 by Disney Hyperion.