Monday, August 10, 2020

Elevation: The Fiery Spiral (#3) by Helen Brain

 Elevation: The Fiery Spiral by Helen Brain concludes Ebba's journey as she seeks to heal her world. Book two leaves us with Ebba finding herself drawn through a portal into another world, where the challenges she faces in order to come into her own are far more fraught than before. Hampered by her stress and worry about what she's left behind her, and what her enemies are doing to her beloved Greenhaven and Table Island, Ebba must forge ahead to hand the Goddess the necklace with its amulets. But she's not alone. She's found an unlikely ally in Lucas, and together they'll be able to face their challenges head on – that's if they can work through their differences enough to not be at cross purposes. 

While books one and two had some magical elements, most of book three plays out in an alternative realm that offers a surreal environment where nothing can be taken at face value. Both Ebba and Lucas face great personal challenges akin to their own hero's journey heavily laden with symbolism. I can say with great certainty that I have not read a YA fantasy quite like this one, and I'd hazard to say that I kept thinking somewhat of Michael Ende's The NeverEnding Story, as there's a whole lot of meta going on here that can be unpacked, with each scene flowing into the other like sequences in a dream.

I appreciated the novelty offered by this story, especially for its departure from established norms, yet I did feel somewhat that I missed a sense of urgency, especially in terms of what could be lost. Now that I'm able to stand back and look at all three books as a unit, it's clear that book three is a complete departure from what has been set up in the first two. I'm not certain how readers' expectations to this will be affected by the sudden shift so late in the story. Could this have been solved with more foreshadowing at the start? 

This is a difficult book to rate. I like it because it's bold and so different from what I've seen in YA fantasy in recent years. But it has its flaws, and there's a part of me that wonders if the entire trilogy couldn't have been edited as a unit to build in the foreshadowing of events that play out in book three better, so that it is not such a shock to the system when the story shifts from earth to Celestia. The message I picked up was clear: how Ebba and Lucas both learn to look beyond themselves and their issues, to be kind to themselves for their shortcomings, and step up to the plate when they have their chance to prove themselves. So in that sense, this story provides fitting closure to the trilogy.

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