I had such high hopes for this book, and (to be fair) it did deliver to some extent. The first half dragged a bit, but it started to pick up and Kristoff's prose never disappoints. Equal parts poetry, grit, and sass, he manages to blend it all into a unique voice that is entirely his own. After the first half, the story starts to gain steam and a bit of the divine hand that influences Mia's life is finally revealed in more detail. Mercurio's predicament at the Red Church offers a number of intriguing details into the histories of the other characters. The pirate subplot was the most entertaining part of the book. The descriptions of the Crown of the Moon were elegant and pleasantly surprising.
But...you can't build your entire series on the concept of "this is not a fairy tale, there are no heroes, everyone dies" and then not deliver. From the first page of book #1, the narrator grooms the reader for a sad-but-epic finale that ultimately ends with the main character's death. He strays a bit, shining some light into Mia's life along the way, but always yanks the chain and hurls a fresh bucket of cruel reality into her face. This is what keeps us coming back. A gritty, dark, blood-and-tears fantasy that few authors have the stones to deliver...but then it doesn't. It doesn't deliver. You know that story that doesn't have a happy ending? It has a happy ending. "She died but now she's not dead anymore! See? I didn't lie, I just didn't tell you the whole of it! Now you get your Disney ending and everyone's happy!" Ugh.
But even in that reversal, he kind of half-asses it. In Godsgrave, he starts challenging Mia with these moral dilemmas of poverty and slavery in the Itreyan republic, starting to set her up for one of those "maybe there are bigger things in life than my revenge" enlightenment turnarounds. Big potential for Mia to maybe reevaluate her motives a little, and add some depth to her vendetta and her character. But it gets dropped entirely in Darkdawn. Okay, okay, you've been promising the readers that Mia's not a nice person and will never be a hero, so she can't exactly have a come-to-Jesus moment. I get it. So let's get down and dark and dirty and see this thing through to the end. Let's ride this hell-coaster into the grave and watch this magnificent bitch go out in a blaze of glory.
Which she sort of does. But then she doesn't. Which kind of makes it all not so impressive. If he had committed fully to one or the other (either down in flames, a bad bitch to the end, or moral enlightenment that earns her that resurrection) this would probably have been a rave review.
One last point (and probably my biggest issue with this book) before I stop my ranting and move on with my life.
You can't build up three books' worth of lore and then ignore that very straight-forward structure to avoid killing a character for the sake of making the conclusion more palatable to the masses. Why is Jonnen still alive? The previous books said very clearly that all darkin have to be killed/claimed/devoured until there is only one left, and then that one has to willingly sacrifice themselves to resurrect the Moon. Mia is darkin. Jonnen is darkin. 1+1 does not equal 1.
Needless to say, this felt like a total cop-out that ruined this series for me.