Towers Fall by Karina Sumner-Smith

This third and final book is as emotionally heartwrenching yet deeply moving as its predecessors. Author Sumner-Smith eschews pat endings while at the same time avoiding apocalyptic resets. The denouement is appropriate – I can’t see how she could have written it any better. As well, there is no filler here despite providing so much more insight into the characters and world. But most importantly, the characters and plot grow yet remain true to their natures; Xhea and Shai don’t morph into superheroes or self destruct into overemotional wrecks. The plot expands but never explodes into unrealistic territory. The writing remains precise yet richly evocative.

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Story: Xhea is crippled and dying. Her magic bound and connection to Shai corrupted. When the Citadel declares war on the Lower City, the girls fear the inevitable destruction. But Xhea and Shai’s synergy could very well be the key to changing all that has gone before – to create a City that does not exploit its citizens, before and after dearth. But there are those who would ensure that the status quo does not change; who recognize that the greatest danger to their power lies at the bearting heart of the Lower City.

Where book two showcased a lot more of Shai, book three is very much Xhea’s story. We are given much more information about the ‘dark magic’ as well as much more insight into Xhea’s past. Both the Shai and Xhea characters remain true to form: Shai grows but is still wracked by her helplessness and passivity; Xhea’s fatalism continues to be far more crippling than her battered knee. The utter hopelessness of their situation is beautifully balanced by layered and nuanced writing showcasing the strength of their friendship.

Because the writing is so strong, this is a book that once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. So much happens on the emotional plane rather than with physical action: it’s a subtly deceptive tool of a very skilled writer who knows how to create emotive responses in readers. The writing is sophisticated yet grounded, the characters layered and nuanced. This truly was a beautiful story.

The Towers Trilogy is by far one of my favorite reads this year. I greatly look forward to the next book by this author. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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