I wrote a short review on Goodreads immediately after finishing this book. Then, a few hours later, I filmed a video review that rambles a bit. So here I’m going to attempt to organize my thoughts a little more coherently.
For context, let me begin by saying I adore Carry On and like Wayward Son. Though the second book was, I felt, a bit depressing in tone, it still had a fairly solid core plot. It meandered a little, but a road trip book can get away with that kind of thing.`
AWTWB doesn’t have such an excuse for its lack of tension or thin plot.
If you’ll recall, Wayward Son ended with a major cliffhanger. Trouble at Watford! Need to get back right now! It was framed with such intensity that one thought Watford might be under siege, or that the Coven had fractured and there had been a hostile takeover of some kind. Maybe the rest of the magickal world had banded against Mages because, honestly, Mages are asshats who think they’re superior to everyone else. In short, there were so many interesting possibilities.
What we got at the opening of AWTWB was… flat. We don’t open with the group arriving at Watford, ready to tackle whatever problems have arisen. Instead, they’re all back in England and they’ve split up to take care of random personal issues. The “trouble at Watford,” in particular seems to have been that Baz’s Aunt Fiona broke into the Headmistress’ office and got locked in a Tower for it.
Meanwhile, Simon has gone home with Agatha, where he’s told he has money because the Mage left him everything. And Penny drags Shepherd home with her in hopes her mom can help him with his curse.
It’s seriously underwhelming.
Then Simon moves out of his apartment with Penny and tries to break up with Baz, but that lasts all of 20 pages. Most of the rest of the book is Simon and Baz dealing with Simon’s sexual dysfunction/intimacy issues. (Seriously, wtf is up with Simon wanting to bite Baz? Like, I half expected we’d discover he really was part dragon after all or something.) But again, there’s no real tension, no real fear they might break up. Just a lot of confusing description of them trying to get it on. It was a case of a lot less would have gone a lot farther, if that makes sense?
Penny and Shepherd end up having their own side story regarding his curse. Basically, these two don’t meet back up with Simon and Baz until the end of the book, so for those who love the group dynamic, you won’t find it here.
And Agatha ends up conscripted into helping at her dad’s medical office. While there she semi-befriends a veterinary student named Niamh. For once, Agatha has, I think, the most interesting story/relationship in the book, but we don’t get very much of it. Maybe it was most interesting because it met the “little goes a long way” criteria. Dunno.
There is ostensibly a central plot in which Simon and Baz are trying to figure out a cult that has formed around the new Chosen One (a Mage named Smith Smith-Richards). Baz’s stepmother has left home to follow this guy, and so has Jamie Salisbury. Baz and Simon are trying to locate Jamie for his mother Lady Ruth Salisbury. Lady Salisbury is also Lucy’s mother, which makes her Simon’s grandmother, but that is treated as a throwaway discovery that’s squandered at the end of the book by being rushed and mostly unexplored. In fact, the whole cult thing feels incidental rather than central considering we spend more time with Simon and Baz in bed and shopping at Ikea than we do dealing with Smith.
Oh, and Fiona was only breaking into Watford to look for her late sister’s ring. She wants to use it in her marriage to Nicodemus.
What we get in AWTWB: goats, including delivery of baby goats; a lot of dealing with Simon’s wings and tail (especially the wings and fitting shirts and coats over them); pseudo-sex between Simon and Baz; Penny’s knees; eye rolling (SO MUCH eye rolling); contract negotiations with demons; sandwiches; cake.
What’s missing from AWTWB: tension/urgency; a solid core plot; character development (except a bit with Agatha); clear understanding of Simon’s issues and why he’s behaving the way he is (like, he talks about it some, but it still doesn’t make sense?); any consequences from the previous book.
No one reprimands these kids for disappearing to America or breaking magickal law. There’s only a passing mention of NowNext and the Vegas vampires, with the gist being, “Not our problem.” There’s just no flow from the last book to this one. And this book has no internal flow either. I never had that desire to pick it up and read it. You know how it is with a great book; you don’t want to put it down, and when you have to, you can’t wait to grab it again. That didn’t happen here. I only got through it as quickly as I did because my daughter was pestering me to finish so she could read it. It got to the point that I just wanted to get through it.
Is this really the last book in the series? There is a lot left open, but based on the trajectory of quality, maybe it’s best to be done. Too bad the end failed to live up to the beginning. (IMHO, of course.)