Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE BLACK KEY by Amy Ewing

Rating: A-
For too long, Violet and the people of the outer circles of the Lone City have lived in service to the royalty of the Jewel. But now the secret society known as the Black Key is preparing to seize power.

And while Violet knows she is at the center of this rebellion, she has a more personal stake in it—her sister, Hazel, has been taken by the Duchess of the Lake. Now, after fighting so hard to escape the Jewel, Violet must do everything in her power to return to save not only Hazel, but the future of the Lone City.

My thoughts on the book:
As most of you know, I have been in love with this series since The Jewel came out. It started out as a unique view of dystopian worlds, and the second book in the trilogy brought up deeper thoughts and ideas to think about. The Black Key expanded on the themes of colonialism, freedom of choice (and consequences), and classism. This final installment did not disappoint, and Ewing left me with a lot to think about after I finished the book. 

Violet, like most leading characters, grew throughout the course of the trilogy. However, unlike a lot of literature, she was still flawed and still made mistakes, even after she learned to take responsibility for her actions and saw what some choices cost. While I was frustrated with her at times, I really appreciated the fact that she remained a real and relatable character. Through Violet's trials and mistakes, other characters grew as well, including Ash. He wasn't my favorite in this installment, but he at least got more fleshed out and became a strong character in his own right. Lucien and Garnet were my favorites, though I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Garnet's complexity toward the end of this book. I also would have liked to have seen more of how being in the Jewel changed Hazel. I felt like that her growth was a bit rushed since she was such a background character until midway through the 2nd novel, and I think that really didn't do her justice. 

The Black Key started off kind of slow, in my opinion, but by the 4th chapter, things really picked up and I became invested in the story. After that event/Violet's decision, which started the narrative of freedom of choice and consequences, the Violet had trials coming at her from all directions, and it was interesting to see how she navigated each of those. Some of her decisions had dire consequences, and it really helped me see that even though we all can make small "incorrect" decisions from time to time, it's not our fault when something horrific happens because of those choices. Yes, Violet could have made a couple of decisions better, but the outcomes of those choices were a lot harsher than they should have been. I've made some small decisions in my own life that ended terribly bad, and I always beat myself up over that, just like Violet did. But through Ewing's writing, I was able to see that Violet wasn't at fault. The people who took things too far were the ones to blame for the horrific consequences, and that helped me view my own life differently. I love when novels can change the way that I look at things as well. 

In addition to the narrative of choice, there was also a background narrative of colonialism and the prices that are paid for people colonizing an area. As this novel shows, history is written by the winners, and because of that so many people didn't know who or what they were. The royals attempted genocide on the indigenous race, much like the English attempted genocide on America's indigenous peoples, and many colonizers (royals) didn't know that the indigenous race still survived. The terrifying lengths that the royals went to in order to control the indigenous population and get all that they could out of them mirrored how many corporations, and even our own government, treats our very own indigenous population in America. Ewing masterfully weaves these two narratives together and creates a unique and enthralling story about Violet and the history of the Lone City.

Overall, I'd recommend this series to anyone who enjoys unique dystopian and/or fantasy novels. Ewing assumes her readers are intelligent people, and she gives us a lot to think about with this trilogy. Her storytelling is excellent, and while there were some really harsh moments in this book, I feel like I'm a better person for reading it. Ewing has a strong voice, and she definitely has a lot to say about society. I look forward to her next project.

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