The electrifying conclusion to the Dividing Eden series by the New York Times bestselling author of the Testing trilogy, Joelle Charbonneau.. The Trials of Virtuous Succession have ended. Prince Andreus is king—and Princess Carys is dead. But even as he’s haunted by what he did to win the throne, Andreus discovers that his dream of ruling only brings new problems. The people love his twin even more in death than they did when she was alive. The Elders treat him as a figurehead. And worst of all, the winds of Eden are faltering. But despite what everyone believes, Carys is alive. Exiled to the wilderness, Carys struggles to control the powers that have broken free inside her. And as she grows stronger, so does her conviction that she must return to the Palace of Winds, face her twin and root out the treachery that began long before the first Trials started. The Kingdom of Eden is growing darker with each passing day. Brother and sister, former foes, must decide whether some betrayals cut too deep to be forgiven—and whether one will wear the crown or both will lose everything.
I love court intrigue books. They always offer a glimpse into a world of power, plotting, backstabbing and jealousy that I can only imagine. The Eden stories, in particular, fulfill these genre expectations, but also have problems unique to this setting. For example, the orb, the windmills, and the necessity of light to fend off the Xhelozi, murderous creatures that come out of hibernation in the winter, are all original. This is also the first time I’ve read this genre in third person limited with shifting perspectives and it actually worked without taking away from the story.
Two characters in this book continuously steal my heart, and that’s Max, the young boy Andreus rescued, and Lord Errik, the mysterious visitor keen on helping Princess Carys. In fact, on a whole, I like the minor characters more than I like the protagonists, though the Garret storyline could have been better developed. I anticipated a big reveal or twist regarding his past and his current intentions. Instead, the outcome is unsatisfying and makes the actual presence of his character even unnecessary.
The timing in this book feels off. I have no clue exactly how long Carys is away from Eden, which lessens the tension and urgency of their situation. Eventually, once Carys knows where she wants to go, the characters specifically discuss the length and difficulties of the journey ahead, but then they get to their destination very fast. It seems like they arrive the same day they leave, which makes no sense per their previous conversation.
Overall, EDEN CONQUERED has better pacing than the first book in the series, and the last third of the story is when all the plot twists and action start to get exciting. However, the ending is also fairly open. It reads as though it’s setting itself up for a third book, and without one, the series loses much of the story’s potential. Having put in the time to read these two novels, I want to know what will become of Errik, how will Carys learn to control her powers, how will Andreus behave now, what will become of the Queen, and how will the Elders be restructured.
I’ll read just about anything by Joelle Charbonneau after THE TESTING, but this novel is good for fans of BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore.