Continuing my hot streak, I got lucky and managed to find a book I was trembling in anticipation for well before its release date. And we won’t talk about how many times a week I visit how many bookstores to make that luck happen, because it’s embarrassing. Let’s just say I work hard for this privilege and leave it there. But boy was I trembling in anticipation for this book, especially considering how much I loved The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves, both of which I’ve reviewed on this site before. I have to state (again) for the record that when publishers change the look of a series’ cover after I already own one in the ORIGINAL cover, it makes me sad. I actually really liked the cover of The Dark and Hollow Places a lot, but it doesn’t match my Forest cover so now that I have a whole complete series, I don’t know what to do. Anyway.  I loved this book so much they could have covered it in hot pink glitter and I wouldn’t have cared.

In Deak and Hollow Places, Carrie Ryan once again switches narrators on us. In this, the final installment of her Forest trilogy, the books journey into The Dark City, and boy does it live up to its name. Annah has lived in the city alone ever since Elias left to join the recruiters. She’s gotten good at protecting herself and being alone. All that changes one day when, walking across a bridge, she sees something that has haunted her since she fled her village in the forest: her twin sister Abigail’s face. Only Abigail is Gabry now and everything Annah thought she knew about the world suddenly seems wrong. Faced with an unending mass of the undead, Annah not only has to navigate the feelings that seem to weigh her down but the strange new world thrust upon her with the arrival of the horde.

What made this book for me was Annah. I’m not normally a big fan of a series with a lot of different points of view, because so often it doesn’t seem cohesive. But the Forest trilogy handled it masterfully. In Forest, we got to see Mary struggling with life in the village and the weird, idyllic life the Sisterhood had created. In Dead Tossed Waves, we saw a small community that was modern and exposed to the outside world. Finally, in The Dark and Hollow Places, we see the horror that is The Dark City. Annah’s story felt the most tragic because the life she was forced the lead was the most bleak. Struggling for food. Fighting off the lawlessness alone. Annah’s life was hard, and she’d had to spend years completely on her own. But, in the end, I think Annah was probably the strongest character in the books. Her resolve, her fearlessness, and her refusal to give up hope made me want to cuddle her and pet her and make everything ok for her the whole time I was reading. Watching her inspire that weird sense of hope in Gabry and Elias and Catcher (I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Catcher more than I did in Dead Tossed Waves, and boy was I wrong) when faced with a hopeless situation was the bright spot in what was otherwise a very dark book.

And guys. This book is dark. It broke my heart to read it. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the stress I felt reading Mockingjay. How it seemed like nothing was ever going to go right or be right ever again. In all of my reviews for Carrie Ryan’s books, I’ve talked about how intense the experience was. This put the other two to shame. Every turn of the page had me shaking in fear. Every single page seemed like it could be any character’s last. The ultimate ending, though, was so satisfying and in such perfect keeping with Annah’s journey that I was beyond thrilled.

I will say that I don’t like Elias. I didn’t love him in Dead Tossed Waves and I wanted to shake him in this book. My dislike didn’t stem from poor characterization – on the contrary, Elias was very well drawn – but just the fact that if I met him in real life I think I’d want to give him a swift kick in the rear. Because our personalities clashed. So even what I didn’t like ended up being something that made me admire this book more.

It’s hard to write a book that can overcome a reader’s expectations. So many final installments can sputter because what happened isn’t what you wanted to happen. And I’ll tell you, I started reading this book thinking that if a certain thing happened it would hurt my enjoyment of the book. But I was wrong. So wrong. That happens so rarely, where an author can take a story into a completely new direction, once you weren’t expecting and maybe didn’t particularly want, and make you fall in love with their vision. Carrie Ryan did that in The Dark and Hollow Places. She made me forget about everything I wanted and get so caught up in this story she was telling me, and that, I think, is what makes this book special.

I could ramble about how much I loved this book and this trilogy for days. I’m incredibly sad that it’s over (though I will hold out irrational hope for a fourth book), but in the end it was such a fitting and realistic conclusion that I’ also immensely satisfied. I can’t recommend this book or this trilogy enough, and I’m looking forward to what Carrie Ryan brings us next.

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