I feel like it’s impossible to talk about these books without discussing the whole series, so I’ve done quick thoughts for each individual books, plus a spoiler-free semi-series review with this review and a spoiler-filled discussion with my review of Book 6. I also did the same for Books 1-3.
Spoiler-Free Semi-Series Review of Books 4-6
It’s my understanding that the series was originally going to be only the first three books, but then the author decided to continue. And I was glad she did! Because the third book ended really abruptly and left a lot unresolved. But those first three books built up into a big climax, which made this one feel almost like starting over. We went from a higher level of intensity and tension back to a very slow-paced, “laying the foundation” kinda book for Book 4, and then Book 5 was very little action and mostly just revelations, and Book 6 was honestly a little anticlimactic.
Worse than that though, I feel like this series really went off the rails. It took such a hard pivot after Book 3. There was this whole wild and complex backstory for the characters and the Re-establishment, there were unexpected betrayals, there was a fated love story, there was memory wiping, there were horrifying and disturbing experiments… It felt like an entirely different series from the one that was about a lovable group of rebels fighting back against an oppressive, dystopian government. I just couldn’t get into it. It felt extreme. Random. Out there. It didn’t fit with the first three books and their vibe, it felt forced in since it wasn’t hinted at in the previous books, and it really threw me off and kinda frustrated me. I found myself not really caring about the story and only kept going because I wanted to know how it would end.
Not only that, these three books were the author’s chance to tie up all the loose ends and bring the story to a solid, satisfying conclusion. She had three whole books to do it. But she kind of didn’t. It wasn’t as abrupt, but the series still ended with a lot of things unexplained and unexplored.
I also found myself frustrated with Juliette often, feeling more disconnected from her and less invested in what happened to her.
I feel like adding more POVs (Warner’s and Kenji’s) was the only thing that saved these books and made them bearable. It was interesting to see things from Warner’s POV (we got his POV in Book 1.5, but the whole situation is different during these books), and I especially enjoyed getting to know Kenji more, between the extra stories and his parts in the main books. I felt for him.
I listened to the audiobooks for these, and I mostly enjoyed them. I felt all three narrators (Kate Simses for Juliette’s POV, James Fouhey for Warner’s POV, Vikas Adam for Kenji’s POV) all did a good job for their respective characters. Kate Simses really embraced and portrayed Juliette’s dramatic way of experiencing things. I have in my notes that James Fouhey sounded a bit flat, but, having to listened to and enjoyed more books narrated by him recently, I think that was a choice and just part of Warner’s character, which makes sense. Vikas Adam sounded basically the way I imagined Kenji and brought the right amount of energy and emotion. My main issues were that I didn’t love how they all voiced the dialogue for other characters, and there didn’t seem to be much coordination between narrators or input from the author since they all seemed to voice characters differently, use different accents, and pronounce names differently. But overall the audiobooks weren’t bad.
Overall, as I said, the second half of the series felt like an entirely different series and went downhill for me.
Quick Thoughts on Book 4
Some thoughts I have about Book 4 specifically… I like Warner’s POV because I enjoyed getting to see the depth and intensity of his love for Juliette, his slowly growing relationship with Adam and James (I wanted more scenes between Warner and Adam since those were some of the best), and his weird frenemies relationship with Kenji. Also that scene where Warner was high on anti-anxiety pills and talking to Kenji was fun. Also, we actually learned something bad that Warner did! (Since in Books 1-3 I found it annoying that everyone kept saying how terrible Warner was, but all we saw was him not being all that terrible.) Last but not least, small thing, but it was kinda nice seeing a female character shave her head and like it.
Fans of Books 1-3 in Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me series. Anyone who likes YA, dystopia, romance, superhuman abilities, dramatic writing, and twisty revelations.