Death’s Abyss (Sea and Stars #3) – S.D. Simper & Lois Ridge (narrator)

4.5⭐️ – I don’t know how readers who had to wait for this final book in the Sea and Stars series did it, I’m so grateful it was already out when I finished Heart of Silver Flame. After a journey fraught with peril and betrayal, Tallora and Dauriel get the ending they deserve and all is well in the world again.

After the events at the end of Heart of Silver Flame, Tallora swims back home as fast as she can but still she’s too late. A small group of survivors is taken in by a neighbouring village while Tallora is sent to find help. With Harbinger’s support, she ends up in Solvira once more, where, again, she is reunited with Dauriel despite everything (you can’t fight fate, don’t even try). The Empress agrees to join the fight to save the world, even if it most probably means she won’t survive it. The great escape Dauriel has been hoping for all her life is at her fingertips, but is it really still what she aspires to?

The world-building impressed me from the start, and it now feels a lot more familiar yet still as magnificent. I’m not a visual reader, I don’t picture settings in my mind, not really. I get glimpses and sensations. I felt mystery and intrigue in Solvira, dread under the sea, warmth in the rare moments when Dauriel and Tallora can afford to let go and just be.

Tallora is so wise when it comes to her love for Dauriel. She knows who she loves, knows who Dauriel is, how brutal she is. From the first time we met her in The Fate of Stars, Tallora got my heart, and Dauriel keeps breaking it. Not only because of the way she sometimes treats Tallora but because of how she treats herself. She’s so torn between duty and love that she tends to forget herself. She also has the incredibly strong need to make her mark on history, some sort of misguided ego trip that has a lot to do with how her mother and, after her, her people saw her. She feels the need to prove herself again and again. That’s a dangerous position for someone with so much power.

With Dauriel, what it all comes down to sounds a lot like depression. Before Tallora came into her life, she had nothing to live for and was ready to die in the blink of an eye if it meant going down in history with glory. Tallora taught her not only to love and let herself be loved but also to have faith in herself, to believe that she can be kind and that blunt force isn’t always the only way. It’s been quite extraordinary watching them both grow and bring the best and strongest out of the other.

One thing I like a lot and that I think makes the relationship between Dauriel and Tallora feel completely believable is how consensual it is. Even when chaos is everywhere and sex is clearly Dauriel’s way to shut her mind and escape, consent prevails. The intimate scenes are intense and powerful, in part for that reason and in part because both characters simply ooze sensuality.

I’ve glossed over the religious part of the story in my previous reviews, because I never know exactly how to address it. Gods and angels play a fundamental part in this trilogy. Staella, whom Tallora worships, is the archetype of the benevolent god, kind, supportive, powerful. I love the interaction with Ilune, the daughter she had with her goddess wife Neoma. Gods sometimes act like brats too and the world is lucky when they have a mother like Staella to bring some order back.

There’s not much I can add about the narration to what I wrote in my reviews for the previous books in this series. I didn’t know Lois Ridge before listening to these three books and she did a wonderful job. Some of the grandeur, especially in battle scenes, is probably lost in the narration but there’s nothing the narrator could do about that. Sometimes I wish there could be some sort of soundtrack in audiobooks (Booktrack does something like that but what I know of their music is too mellow) because honestly, that final battle scene totally deserves flamboyant music.

I would have loved a little more dragon action but I’ll get over it. Mermaids, flying gods, and sea monsters are pretty cool too.

5-stars

Death’s Abyss @ kobo

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