I will admit upfront that I haven’t read the first two in the series, and as this book doesn’t seem meant to stand alone particularly well, I recognize my lack of foreknowledge has likely impeded my enjoyment. Still, the story took off from a high point of action (which must have been a cliffhanger in the previous book) and didn’t slow until about halfway through. This reader would liken the feel of Transcendent to a sort of matured YA version of the Percy Jackson series—demi-god teens (who may or may not be aware of their ancestry) all attending a special school for the preternaturally-inclined, gods running amuck causing external conflict, destiny vs. personal choices causing internal conflict, cryptic prophecies, an emphasis on teamwork and loyalty, etc. The story features a fairly large (though largely distinct) cast, and is told from numerous 3rd-person points of view—though the primary focus (outside of the Ragnarok end-of-the-world scenario) is on the romantic relationship between Mason and Frennrys.
A significant positive to this book is Livingston’s appealing prose and solid handling of the many battle scenes. The pacing of this story carried me along engrossingly for the first half, dropping in enough breadcrumbs that I could piece together critical events from the previous books. I even found myself wanting to know several characters better so I’d know if I wanted them to succeed. Unfortunately, with so much going on and a set of flat villains whose motives I didn’t really understand, the second half of the story ended up feeling needlessly drawn out.
Mason makes for a sturdy, determined heroine—though in this book it was never very clear why she and Fennrys developed such a passion for each other over the course of what this reader understands to be the few days (or possibly weeks) time this series is taking place within. Mason’s claustrophobia issue is brought up now and again, but an explanation of its cause was only alluded to. (My assumption is that the past trauma with her brother somehow killing her when she was a child is given vividness in one of the previous books.)
Heather, the only mundane human featured in this storyline, turned out to be one of the most likeable and interesting characters. The ex-boyfriend she still loves is ridiculously, senselessly in love with Mason—who is already clearly involved with someone else. But while she’s in pain, Heather is not bitter enough to hate Mason for what she can’t control, nor petty enough to twist fate in her favor. Her bravery in the face of her own frailty carried more emotional weight and meaning than most (if not all) of the other nearly indestructible players on this chessboard o’ fate.
I would recommend this book for those with a penchant for Norse mythology and a preference for series that feel like one long, continuous work that’s been broken into more manageable pieces.
"War up close and personal is bad. At a distance, it's monstrous."