3.5 stars: Some parts shine, some disappoint in bittersweet ending to trilogy
In Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever, the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, Sam is waiting for Grace to become human again as winter melts into spring. Cole is taking huge risks to try and find a cure, and Isabel continues to struggle with her brother’s death. The stakes are raised when a hunt to kill the wolves is approved, and Sam, Cole, and Isabel must race against time to save Grace and the pack. With no easy solutions in sight, nothing is certain regarding who will live and love into another season.
Like always, Stiefvater’s lyrical prose impressed me with its ability to create distinct imagery and to evoke emotion. Isabel and Cole shined as characters that grow, both by themselves and together, and I found their shared moments to be the most touching. All of the characters, even those whom we’re supposed to love, are shown to have significant flaws, and the story deals openly with the issue of what is forgivable and what is not. Strong themes about selfish versus selfless behavior, self-destruction and suicide, the value and worth of love, and the importance of consent and choice also ran throughout. I appreciated seeing these themes woven into the story, and I appreciated even more seeing Stiefvater note some of them in the dedication, author's note, and acknowledgments. The novel also finished with a somewhat open ending that allows readers to imagine an uncertain but hopeful future for the characters, which I found more believable than a pat ending.
Even with all of these strong points, FOREVER didn’t provide the satisfying conclusion for which I had hoped. Like in Linger, the voices of the different narrators were often not distinct, and I sometimes found myself checking the chapter headings to identify the speaker. The prose in this installment also felt too intentional: I often felt like passages were written for the mere beauty of the words, not because they represented a character’s voice well. While I loved Isabel and Cole, they outshined Sam and Grace in this book, much to the detriment of the two main characters. Despite the hardships their relationship undergoes, the cautious nature in which Sam and Grace treated each other felt artificially strained. Because of this, I never reconnected to their love story. Some parts of the resolution also felt too convenient, and the werewolf pathology remained unclear. Finally, while I did appreciate aspects of the open ending, some things felt just as unresolved as they were at the end of the two previous books.
After falling in love with the author’s writing in her faerie novels (Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie), the Shiver, to see if I can find that connection to her writing again.