I have not exactly been secretive about how much I adore Sarah Rees Brennan’s writing. I mean, I’ve fangirled about her many works a lot– I mean, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. What I haven’t done, is write up a proper (spoiler free*) review. So, I have taken the recent release of the final book in the The Lynburn Legacy as an opportunity to do just that.
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown— in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him? – [X]
Having magic is often equated to having power and is, by and large, highly desirable- I mean, I am part of a generation of Potterheads who are “still waiting” for their Hogwarts letters. In the The Lynburn Legacy, however, being able to do magic comes at a heavy cost- the only way that a sorcerer can gain incredible power is through a sacrifice. If the “volunteer” is a “willing” one the power drawn from their murder is great, but if they are unwilling- no matter, a power-hungry sorcerer would kill them anyway and still be able to draw substantial power from murder. Sorry-in-the-Vale has a history of accepting this kind of madness, but Kami Glass is determined to change that.
There is a chance, though, that a sorcerer is capable of having a “source” i.e. a non-magical person whose soul is knit to the sorcerer’s, thereby creating a two-way link wherein the source is able to control (and sometimes use) the sorcerer’s magic, and the sorcerer in turn is able to magnify their power. There are drawbacks, of course, for instance:
“What use is it to have world-changing power, just to put it in someone else’s hands?”
He asks while twirling his evil felt moustache.
The way that power is wielded in this series (whether it is for personal gain or for the sake of others), the way it is defined (whether it is magic or not), and who wields the power (whether they have a choice in the matter or not), are all issues that are satisfyingly addressed over the three books.
There are quite a few female characters in this series, all of whom defy stereotypes (and form lasting friendships with one another), but Kami is the main character so I’m going to have to focus on her.
Kami Glass is, as it should be obvious by now, a source- Jared’s source, to be precise. Which complicates the romance a little. (Or a lot.) They are always connected- emotionally and intellectu- OMG, IT JUST OCCURRED TO ME THAT JARED COULD CHEAT OFF KAMI DURING AN EXAM IF SHE LET HIM! *ahem* Anyway, this is a setup that neither Jared nor Kami chose, but the decision to keep (or divest of) this link is still theirs (mostly, hers) to make. Honestly, it makes their relationship even more interesting. But I’ll talk about that later.
For now, I would like to rave about Kami who is just the best. She is strong in the way that Lady Fire or Tessa Gray or Rory Deveaux is strong- she isn’t exactly a pro-boxer (though she does take self-defence classes with her best friend’s brother), she is sometimes insecure, very rash, and often scared, but! She has the strength to make difficult decisions under duress (no matter how adversely her decisions affect her personally). Oh, and she believes in her future as an investigative journalist. Also, despite being (kind of) the chosen one, she is not a solitary hero. She is faced with a problem and immediately gathers her friends to save the day, which leads to the creation of …
“Team Goodish and Highly Endangered”
Quite possibly, my favourite Team Good in all of YA. You have the reluctant heroes, the anti-heroes, the righteous heroes, the heroes who are in-it-to-win-it, and the heroes are actually kind-of-terrified-but-won’t-give-up-anyway. The thing is, at various points over the trilogy every member of this gang embodies all these kind of heroes and more. I have said it before and I will say it again, none of SRB’s characters are ever what they seem at first. They always change over the story- whether it is the sardonic Angela, the “pretty girl” Holly, or the shifty Ash- everyone gets a proper character arc. Which is great because that means no trope-y writing ever in The Lynburn Legacy.
The thing about SRB’s writing is that she is hella skilled at weaving the romance and the action together. I used to be maddeningly snooty when it came to romance in fantasy YA (and I am still working on not being that person), but Sarah Rees Brennan proves that a love story need not equate to a “lesser kind of story”. (It’s kind of a shame that the summaries for genuinely awesome romance/fantasy books are sometimes barf inducingly bad.) I was, at first, concerned about how Kami and Jared’s romance was going to play out, not just because they are bound to each other’s minds making it hard to avoid transgressing each other’s boundaries, but also because interracial couples are often written rather badly. Unsurprisingly, SRB is too brilliant to mess that up- while there is no horrible fetishization, the fact that Kami isn’t white does not go ignored either. And! When it comes to certain other *ahem-possible-spoiler* awesome couples, there is an understanding that sometimes having someone love you back isn’t enough; you need to find it in yourself love freely and courageously. Also, questions of agency, personal growth, and consent are discussed alongside every romantic relationship in this book. Consent, especially in the case of physical intimacy, is done so damn well in this series.
Why You May Like It
- The characters are diverse and complex, their struggles are all different, and they clash in interesting, meaningful ways.
- The magic is never without consequence.
- The relationships (whether romantic, platonic, or familial) are all incredibly well portrayed.
- The murder/mystery aspect of the story is neither gratuitous nor apolitical.
The Lynburn Legacy will forever be one of my favourite fantasy series and I sincerely think it could be the fave of many others. Just. Read. It.
Why You May Not Like It
What? You mean, you don’t like awesomely written diverse characters with diverse struggles and murder and magic and romance and great female characters?
All Hallow’s Read?
Hell, yes! This is definitely for fans of gothic novels. It’s also one of those books that work well for reluctant horror readers- you know, for people who like scary/mysterious stuff, but not Stephen King’s idea of scary?
*I can’t make any promises if you click on one of those “a lot” links though.