Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Penumbra by Keri Arthur

The Basics:
Penumbra by Keri Arthur
Book 3 in the Spook Squad Series
Urban Fantasy
Re-released October 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Why I picked up this book:

I had to see how the trilogy ended!


Agent Sam Ryan is sick of feeling lonely. It?s time to take control and get a life outside of work. But Stephan, her boss, won?t let her go easily. Offered the choice between guarding a clone, or remaining stuck in her office, Sam reluctantly accepts the former, even though she suspects Stephan is using her as bait to draw out the dangerous Sethanon. Gabriel is relieved to discover he?s finally shaken Sam as his partner, until he learns her new assignment is guarding Wetherton. He and Stephan know Wetherton could only have come from Hopeworth, the base involved in DNA experiments for decades, where it is more than likely that Sam was created. But there is a growing likelihood that the military base is also the home of Sethanon himself. Gabriel is determined to protect her, yet all too soon he discovers the connection between he and Sam is far deeper than anyone could ever have imagined.

My thoughts:

Penumbra is an entertaining, quick read that provides a mixed results ending to the trilogy. Why mixed results?  Well, I think some threads are left open, but I'll get to that in a moment.

It seems to me that the entire Spook Squad trilogy was planned at the same time, whether or not it was written that way. I really think that you could read them all in a row (the way that I did, albeit with pausing briefly to write some notes for my reviews) and it would feel almost like a single, larger book - or, you know, a normal-length fantasy novel. 

So, the most important part for my enjoyment - the romance. Sam and Gabriel have been dancing around a hook-up since book one. We know there's some crazy chemistry between these two - so crazy that they feel when the other is injured. This book does provide some answers, and does resolve the "will they, won't they?" question. Was I satisfied? Not entirely, and here's why:

First, the psychic bond made me feel a little uncomfortable. Neither Gabriel nor Sam wants it, it's forced on them, they have no choice but to deal with it, and that makes them both feel penned in, and that's not cool. 

Second, there is an *epic* moment in this book that had me slow down and savour the words. This is the only time when I was reading this series that I wasn't flying through the words, compelled to read as fast as I could to get answers. Unfortunately, I didn't get the huge romantic pay-off that I wanted - so I'm extra glad I savoured this moment when it happened.

Third, there's definitely some willful blindness - as I said, it took Sam and Gabriel a bit longer than necessary to confirm some facts that seemed obvious to me as a reader. While I was willing to acknowledge that Sam was living in denial because she was, quite frankly, overwhelmed by everything that was happening, and she lacked any kind of support system, well, between that and Gabriel's deliberate walls around having a partner/getting close to Sam...  Yeah. I just wanted to shake everyone and say, guys! Let's stop being ostriches and deal with the world!

Sam and Gabriel were still very kickass, and I was pretty engaged in the story itself. The action scenes were fantastic and I liked that Gabriel turned to shifting whenever it was appropriate - this wasn't a power that he forgot (conveniently or not) that he had. 

There were some cool revelations about the nature of this world in Penumbra too, which is awesome since it was the last in the trilogy. I loved that the worldbuilding continued and in ways that I found generally reasonable. That said, the stonewalling from Hopeworth created this space for the book to offer up some crazy powers and creatures without having to be too careful about explaining them. I wanted to spend time in the compound in the present, poking around.

Other than Hopeworth being still a bit of a blank, the other thread that was left dangling for me relates to the man who appeared in Sam's dreams in book two. I won't say anything more, but there were definitely openings for a fourth book. And some digging (okay, I just googled "Keri Arthur spook squad book 4") reveals that in a FAQ on Keri Arthur's website, she (I presume) acknowledges that there was a fourth book planned but because of the time and distance she'd had since writing in this world, the fourth book has been scrapped. I find this really disappointing because there's some material left up in the air, and I'd love to see all the developments at the end of book three pan out through a fourth book.

Bottom line:

Penumbra is a fun, final entry in the Spook Squad trilogy. It answered many of my questions while leaving the door open for a fourth book - a door shut by a FAQ on the author's website. My disappointment about the lack of additional books in the series should be evidence of how entertaining I found books 1-3 (rather than a suggestion that these were not satisfying on their own). I strongly recommend the trilogy - grab all three at once and binge read!

4.5 stars
For fans of urban fantasy, Spook Squad series.

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