Author: Daniel José Older
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
American release date: January 7, 2020
Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA Contemporary Fantasy/432 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Sierra, the new Lucera, and Shadowhouse have destroyed the Sorrows and the House of Light, to form the House of Shadow and Light. Next on the agenda is to take care of the rising house, Bloodhaüs, which bears more than a striking resemblance to a neo-Nazi organization. Both sides agree to a parley, but surely she didn’t expect the skinheads to keep their word? Maybe, just maybe, Sierra can salvage something positive from this meeting. Like a spy who can infiltrate the House of Iron?
Life is difficult with so many people Sierra loves incarcerated for things they shouldn’t be there for, including her brother Juan, her friend Izzy, and her new love interest, Anthony, aka the artist formerly known as Pulpo. Good thing she has so many loyal friends and family members to support her, including her father Dominic, although he really doesn’t know what is going on but he stands behind her and does not get in the way, despite his son being in jail. Even so, Sierra feels compelled to not include them in all of her thoughts and plans, which could end up being a major mistake on her part. It’s not a lack of trust as much as an unnecessary need to keep people safe who she should really be relying on more, since no man is an island, and neither is she.
Sierra also has a secret she hasn’t shared before. Namely, she’s keeping the last remaining Sorrow hostage up in her late Grandpa Lazaro’s old room. Whoa, will that cause problems when the others find out? Especially her mother Maria? From Sierra’s viewpoint, she is solving two problems with one stone, so to speak.
Juan and Anthony know they’re safe behind bars because of the protection afforded them by the House of Iron. But their unexpected release raises the concern of how far that safety lasts once they step outside the prison walls. New houses are beginning to emerge. Friend or foe? Hard to tell, even when a new guy named Mort helps put an end to a common enemy. How far can they trust Mort, if at all? Worst than that, it appears as though Anthony has gone over to the House of Iron. How can that be? How will Sierra survive such a betrayal? When their spy Dake emerges as the leader of a brand new house and demands Sierra turn over the Deck to him, she has to weigh her options – give him the deck and its power or risk the lives of the loved ones of the people of her house. Not an easy decision to make, but so much hinges on what she chooses to do.
Wow, wow, just wow, wow, wow. Such a great story, so much going on. Impossible to describe, you just gotta read it for yourself. Sierra is growing and evolving as the leader of her house, but sometimes even she isn’t sure she likes the changes that are happening to her, and longs for the way things were. But she is strong, and she can survive anything. One of the things that is different in this volume from the other two is the multiple viewpoints. Previously, the story was told strictly from Sierra’s POV, but this one has multiple narrators. That was a little offputting at first, but I could see why this had to be, since Sierra can’t be everywhere, and important information comes from other sources. But I quickly got used to that and came to appreciate it, seeing that it gave these other characters room for greater depth and development. Loved Neville and Nydia, and now Juan and Bennie. So cute! I confess that I never did warm up to Sierra’s mother, even though her actions semi-atoned for what she did previously. But that was too little too late in my opinion, though others may feel entirely differently.
This is such a creative, imaginative tale with a lot of heart and soul. The world development is outrageously good, and so is the character development. By the end of the series, you feel as though these are people you really could know… friends, neighbors, family. There is a lot of drama here too, and sometimes I wasn’t certain which way a particular situation might go, and I found myself turning the pages rapidly to find out what would happen. This is a great story for teens and adults alike. I highly recommend it. I’m hoping there will be more stories in this universe. There is certainly room for them.