(2016) J. P. Smythe, Hodder, £7.99, pbk, 313pp, ISBN 978-1-444-79641-4
This is the last book in J. P Smytheís ĎAustraliaí juvenile fiction trilogy, about a teenage girl (Chan) trying to survive initially on a prison ship (the ĎAustraliaí as recounted in the first book, Way Down Dark) and later in a dystopian walled Washington DC (in the second title Ė Long Dark Dusk). There are spoilers for the first two books below (which you really should read before this one) so the only other thing Iíll say upfront is that these books are all good, the first is the best and, arguably, itís only the presence of a teenage protagonist that makes these books juvenile fiction for teenagers. So go read Way Down Dark, and come back here in two bookís time.
This third instalment, Dark Made Dawn, sees Chan outside the city walls hanging out with the Nomads, who live off scraps, hope and poverty, venturing into the city with her former enemy now best friend Rex to do the dirty jobs that the city cops would rather not do themselves. Chanís got one mission: to rescue a young girl, Mae, who she protected on the ship and who was taken from her when the Australia fell to Earth earlier in the trilogy. To do that she needs to get back into the city, and hope that the people there she trusts deliver on their promises. They donít.
The first book in this trilogy, Way Down Dark, had tremendous energy and pace driven by a survival imperative in an increasingly hostile environment. The follow ups feel safer, and the perils more contrived. Dark Made Dawnís driver is the search for Mae to deliver on Chanís promise to find and protect her after they were separated at the beginning of the second book, but even that lacks any urgency, since Mae is almost certainly safe and thriving and itís not clear (not least to Chan) that Mae would be any better off living with her, presumably drifting like the Nomads searching for a purpose. The resolution to the Mae search is touching and sad and entirely predictable, as is the revelation of Maeís parentage.
This book drifts like the Nomads. Itís nice to return to well-liked characters but the problem here is the real story was over after the first novel, and although Iíve enjoyed spending more time with Chan and seeing Rex turn into a taciturn killing machine with fierce loyalty towards her former enemy, the sense of imperative that drove the first book is missing in the sequels. That said, thereís much to like here, right down to the intriguing ending, which is circular enough to suggest there wonít be a book four in this series (which was always set up as a trilogy). J. P. Smythís a quality writer, though, and has plenty of other novels for readers to check out.
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