Title: Forest of Ruin
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #3
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Format: E-Book, 448 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Perfect for fans of Graceling and Game of Thrones, this is the breathtaking conclusion to the Age of Legends trilogy—from #1New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong.
The empire rests on the edge of a knife, and sisters Ashyn and Moria are the handle and the blade. Desperate to outmaneuver the evil Alvar Kitsune, whose hold on the people grows stronger every day, Emperor Tatsu begs Moria to put aside past grievances and ally with Gavril—at least long enough to make an attempt on Alvar’s life. Meanwhile, reunited with her long-lost grandfather, Ashyn discovers that she is the key to a ritual that could reawaken an ancient dragon and turn the tide of the coming battle in their favor.
But with lies and betrayal lurking around every corner, Ashyn and Moria will have to decide once and for all where their allegiances lie. And it may not be where their hearts would lead them. . . .
In this third and final book in her epic and enchanting trilogy, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong blends fantasy, action, and romance to give readers the unforgettable ending they’ve been waiting for.
In the third and final installment of the Age of Legends trilogy, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn get ready to finally face the evil that has unleashed all kinds of mythological creatures to plague the Empire and unravel the mystery around their heritage as Keeper and Seeker of the Spirits. Moria embarks on a journey with once ally Gavril Kitsune back to his father, to find out what his war plans are. Meanwhile, Ashyn is integrated into a society of dragon keepers by her grandfather, who reveals a shocking truth about her abilities, which are much more than the Empire has made her believe. War is brewing and the twins must prepare while simultaneously help Prince Tyrus clear his and Moria’s names.
This series is so dear to my heart – has been ever since I started and finished the first book just mere hours before the start of 2015. Sea of Shadows got me hooked from the start, and while some people had trouble with the pacing, I found it fitting for the story Kelley Armstrong was trying to tell, and was even more engrossed when it picked up speed at the end. I eagerly anticipated Empire of Night and when it finally came, it did not disappoint. Especially with the way it wrapped up. I’ve been on pins and needles for the past year, waiting for the day I could finally get my hands on the conclusion. My expectations were through the roof and I was absolutely certain, judging from the previous two books, that they would not only be met – they’d be exceeded. Sadly, that was not the case.
Forest of Ruin’s tagline promises war and lots of action – none of which were actually delivered, up until maybe the last few chapters. The plot was painstakingly slow, barely moving, and at times it felt like it had no real direction whatsoever. It went to places so far off from what the previous book promised that it actually made me wonder if I hadn’t picked up a conclusion for a different series. The journey is very far from not over, contrary to what the cover tells you, and the characters spend at least 90% of the book in quite non-metaphorical forests (and caves, and plains), strolling around, building fires and having deep, emotional conversations that take up way too much page time. Anything but actually being at war, engaging in epic battles. It avoided those like the plague. Everything was so underwhelming that when the culmination point finally arrived, I had already snoozed off. The ending, itself, lacked excitement. The epic finale we seemed to had been promised apparently vaporized into thin air, leaving us with this shallow excuse.
The things that most drew me in when I started this series – apart from the plot, which was pretty new for me as I had not encountered something similar in YA Fantasy before – were the characters. They are layered and complex and form such strong bonds between each other, and with the reader as well. I don’t think I would have enjoyed these books as much as I did without this cast. I loved all of them, but mostly Ashyn and Moria, and their relationship.
When I was little, I’d often wonder what it would be like to have a twin, and I’ve always been compelled by stories about twins. The relationships between two seemingly identical individuals (Holy Oxymoron, Batman!) are fascinating to witness and they make me long for a twin sister of brother so much! Especially when the relationship is nurturing and supporting. Which is the case with these two ginger ladies. Their utter devotion to one another is envious at best, and setting the bar too high at the worst. Honestly, the sibling love between these two is Too Much™ and I loved each and every bit of it. Which is why it was so painful that we didn’t get as much of Moria and Ashyn be sisterly in this book. They spend a huge chunk of it apart, and when they’re reunited, the slowly progressing plot gets in the way. But I still loved them, nonetheless, both as individuals and as two sides of the same coin. The thing I love most about them is how different they both are and how those differences only make their bond stronger, instead of weakening it. The twins are definitely what make this trilogy.
Out of the male leads, the one I grew most to love is Gavril. He has the most layers out of the three, and ever since that Plot Twist™ in book one, I’d been dying to hear what his true thoughts are and what made him do all that he did. To be perfectly honest, his thoughts (or lack of showing them that is) have plagued me since the very beginning. At first Gavril was this uptight soldier, but then he turned into so much more and I could easily name him as the most compelling character in this series. There were few things I liked in Forest of Ruin and Gavril Kitsune is probably half of them. We got to see him struggle with guilt and loyalty and honour, and it was so satisfying to see him come into himself as a personage. In the end, he made all the right calls and, despite his own conflicting feelings, remained selfless and true to his friends and did not once let those feelings get in the way of their happiness. I was both very satisfied and dissatisfied with the ending he got – I just wish he got more of what he truly deserved.
The romances in this book were, for me, childish and too Over The Top at times. Usually, the love subplots should complement the overall storyline, not overtake it – which is what kind of happened here. We spent so much time dwelling on the romantic feelings, on quite a lot of unnecessary displays of affection, and the chapters in which the characters consider the possibility of broadening their sexual horizons felt too bloated. They didn’t seem to fit too well with the mood we were supposed to be getting from this book, too. I liked the contrast, however, between the twins – how one viewed romance and sexuality as two separate entities, while the other preferred them going together, and how normally that was treated. Neither was chastised for holding such opinions, rather they were accepted and valued. That’s about the extent of my enjoyment of the love subplots in this book, as I found both to be, like I already mentioned, childish and bloated.
Sea of Shadows and Empire of Night definitely did not fail in giving me the creeps with their intricate descriptions of all the legendary monstrosities that our characters faced. They were horrifying at times, and I absolutely ate it all up. Forest of Ruin, however, was not able to meet my expectations in this regard either. I had a few Creeped Out moments, but nothing that actually made my hair stand on end. I expected the same kind of terrifying images as before, but with the added bonus of a ferocious dragon, laying waste to the enemy forces, but what I got instead was a few possessions and a baby snow dragon that could barely make ice. That was probably the most disappointing thing in this entire book. I honestly cannot believe the same person wrote all three books.
In conclusion, Forest of Ruin suffered the Last Book in The Series syndrome, and it brings me such great pains to actually write that. As I’ve mentioned before, I hold this series so close to my heart and it’s easily one of my favourites, but this book was just a huge let down for me. The magic that the previous two had was simply missing from this one. Neither the ending nor the journey to it felt entirely satisfying and I think Kelley Armstrong should have just left off with Empire of Night.