Review of STARLING by FIONA PAUL
(third in THE SECRETS OF THE ETERNAL ROSE trilogy, review based on an advance reading copy)
I devoured the first two books in this trilogy, so I jumped eagerly into this final installment as soon as I snagged a copy. For this series, Paul has created a masterful blend of genre elements, including young adult, mystery, historical fiction, romance, and suspense. Basically, she’s telling the story as it should be told without worrying too much about stuffing the book into a particular label.
While still good, I’m afraid STARLING didn’t quite live up to its predecessors. In the first two books, I found the writing so natural that it faded into the background, leaving the spotlight for the story. This third book had some phrasing here and there awkward or clumsy enough to halt my reading. Sadly, there’s also an abundance of cheesy, cliché, or otherwise cringe-worthy dialogue that detracts from what could have been far more engaging scenes.
Rest assured that STARLING addresses pretty much every single one of the many interwoven plot threads before concluding. Unfortunately, many resolutions didn’t fully satisfy me; either they don’t answer all my questions or they feel forced or unbelievable.
Despite a review that feels like it’s leaning more towards the negative, I did enjoy this book - in fact, found it difficult to pull down even when criticisms popped into my mind. I describe THE SECRETS OF THE ENTERNAL ROSE series more as fluff reading than great works of literature. Nevertheless, the first two felt like the very best of fluff reading - with great writing, distinct and complicated characters, and an unpredictable plot. I might not recommend STARLING as highly on its own, but it’s a must read for anyone wanting to know how the trilogy ends.
I do want to say that Paul’s series has one of the few love triangles that held my interest...but again that lessened in the third book. Part of why I invested in this trilogy is how entirely I understand what Cass sees in these very different men, including how they appeal to different parts of herself. Of course, the more she bounces from one to one (the most deciding factor usually being which guy she spoke with last) the more I wonder if she deserves either.
Though not quite as pulled together as the earlier books, I would still recommend STARLING to anyone who enjoyed the first two in the series.