Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Jewel of the Kalderash (The Kronos Chronicles #3) by Marie Rutkoski

Petra is trying to save her father after Prince Rodolfo transformed him into a monstrous Gray Man. The Gray Men make up Rodolfo's army and are superior to humans with their superpowers of speed, protective scales, and poisonous skin. A pinprick from a claw through human skin can kill a person instantly. The Gray Men have such a thirst for human blood they have lost their humanness and are killing machines. Petra's plan is to kidnap the scientist who created them and force her to create an antidote to turn her father back into a human. With the help of Neel, Tomik, new friends, and old friends, this entertaining read was hard to put down.

I didn't give this 4 or 5 stars because I thought the plot was more predictable and less original than the first two books. That is not to say there are no unpredictable parts. I didn't expect the martyrdom of one character. Nor did I expect the mind-link between two characters. However, Neel's assassin was easy to predict. And so was Neel's fate. What I missed the most was the world building. In the other books, Rutkoski ties in Renaissance history with historical legends like John Dee or mythical creatures like Ariel. That doesn't happen in this book as most of the fantasy world has been established in the first two books.

The book also follows conventions found in fantasy versus steampunk. I have read so much fantasy it makes the story easier for me to predict. Petra's storyline follows the reluctant hero who has turned into a killer of some sorts. Her fragile psyche is explored a bit and she is more cynical and reserved. The humorous side to her is seen less as she broods over all the traumatic events that have happened to her recently. I found this exploration of her being damaged from killing others interesting and one not usually found in plots. So often the character kills someone and doesn't think twice about it. Petra grieves about what she's done and it makes for an authentic character struggling with having to kill others. Prince Rodolfo is one dimensional and not interesting in this book. He's the Dark Lord ruthlessly bent on gaining power over land and people. The steampunk aspects include Tomik creating gadgets, Astrophil almost dying because the brassica oil needed to keep him running was destroyed, and a submarine housing a wacky scientist creating monsters.

There is plenty of action and internal changes with the characters. Neel is forced to grow up and become a leader and the author shows this transformation in him handling a land dispute with wisdom. As an orphan he does not side with factions and grows in his role. As mentioned above, Petra seems to be having some post-traumatic stress and is more withdrawn from those around her. Tomik continues to grow in his magical powers. A romantic subplot creates tension that the trio must overcome. It was fun to see some of the characters again such as Iris and Dee. Astrophil is still the mentor and my favorite character. New characters, Lucas and Zora, are spitfires in their own right and add a nice fresh touch.

The subplot of the romance didn't interest me. It seemed clear from the start who Petra preferred of the three so I never really found the situation tense as it should have been. I was more interested in the turn of events for Petra at the end and learning to be average. Seems like there's an open door to scoot through if the series doesn't want to end. The message of sacrificing oneself for the good of everyone versus one individual is explored and contrasted with other characters. Sadie is the foil to Petra's mission to free her father. While Sadie is thinking of preventing the extermination of her people, Petra is solely focused on her dad. She is forced to think of what it means to sacrifice for the group or not. Lucas and Zora are zealots who want change in the government from the oppressive Rodolfo, but their actions can be construed as duplicitous in light of Lucas's heritage. I like how Rutkoski mucks character traits and personalities to make them a complex bag of good and bad choices such as Dee and Lucas. The thread of choice and sacrifice is tightly linked until the climax where Petra has to make a "choice" with her magic. Make a choice to read this series. A satisfying conclusion to an intriguing series.

3 Smileys

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