I recently finished a very, very long series, and usually this is when I go through all the books and review the series as a whole. I decided not to do that with The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken, because that would have taken up a ton of time, since there's a lot to talk about in those books. Don't get me wrong– they're awesome and should totally be read, since there are a lot of important messages that need to be addressed in the books, and I dare any reader not to fall in love with a certain charmer name Liam. That being said, I found that my favourite novellas were in Through The Dark, a collection of three novellas set after each primary book of The Darkest Minds. I'll go over all three of them briefly, but bear in mind that there will be spoilers in this review, not just because I'm talking about the novellas, but because I'll need to mention parts of the full length novels as well. If you don't want to be spoiled, let me tell you that The Darkest Minds are fantastic books with rich characters, complex problems, heart-aching romance, and twists layered on twists. With that in mind, check them out, and if you want to keep going, the spoiler warning starts now.
I love the concept of this cover! It's absolutely gorgeous!
Don't miss this breathtaking collection of stories set in the world of the New York Times best-selling Darkest Minds trilogy. Featuring ebook original novellas In Time and Sparks Rise, and a gripping, brand-new novella, Through the Dark is a must-have for fans of the Darkest Minds. This collection contains three novellas: In Time, Sparks Rise, and Beyond the Night, as well as a sneak peek at the first novel in Alexandra Bracken's new series,Passenger.
Gabe's life has been devastated in the wake of the economic crash. The only option left for someone like him to escape his tragic past is to leave his small town behind and to attempt to become a skiptracer. This already almost-impossible task is made all the more difficult by his first "score,"a young girl who won't speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine.
Sam didn't think things could get worse at Thurmand rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam's dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret--he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk everything to save her.
BEYOND THE NIGHT
The government-run "rehabilitation camps" have been shut down, but kids with Psi powers are anything but free. Sam would rather be on her own than put in the care of a foster family and given the "cure"--a dangerous procedure that unclaimed kids across the country are being forced to undergo. But there's more at stake than just her own safety. Sam once made someone a promise, and the time has come to fulfill it. Now that she's out of her camp, Mia only has one thought in her head: finding Lucas, her beloved older brother.
Okay, so, In Time. While it was my least favourite of the three (don't read too much into that, since it was very well written and really intense), it definitely stood out on its own. The other two novellas tied into each other (more on that later), but In Time was its own entity with a new character, someone outside of The Darkest Minds universe as I knew it so far. It was interesting to follow the adventures of Gabe the skip tracer, a man who collected bounties to restart his life. At first, I didn't like Gabe. At all. I thought he was a bit of a whiny jerk. But that was clearly the point, because he was more than that. When he stumbled across a character I recognized, intending to take her in, I was pleasantly surprised at the way she wore his defences down. Little snippets and small scenes revealed his sympathy toward the poor kids, and by the end of the story, I was totally rooting for him. Which is probably why I thought the ending was such a cheap shot. While Gabe did reach the end of his arc, I felt like he could have grown a lot more. I would have loved to see him integrate with the main series characters (especially Vida), and I just couldn't see the justification behind his end. It seemed like shock value for the sake of shock value.
Speaking of shock value... Sparks Rise. Oh boy, do I have some stuff to say about this one. First off, I fell in love with it almost instantly. The two main characters, Lucas and Sam, were amazing. I've always liked Sam, and Lucas had a huge heart. There was a clear, deplorable villain, and the interaction that Sam and Lucas had melted me to the core. They were a spark of hope in a dim, brutal world where punishment literally leaves you treated like an animal. I loved Lucas's torment about continuing to search for his sister and his fight to keep his humanity, and the devotion and love he felt for Sam. His clashing priorities were realistic and held me to the very end. Which was also, another freaking cheap shot. The end was the kind of end that rips out your heart and stomps it to pieces. Honestly, I was ready to declare Sparks Rise as my favourite The Darkest Minds of them all... until that happened. However...
Imagine my elation when I returned to Beyond The Night and found that we were with Sam again, and that she was keeping her promise to Lucas about finding his sister, Mia, and how they had the same end goal! I was thrilled by it, and really enjoyed the tension in their relationship. Mia was feisty, but I enjoyed her attitude, almost about as much as I enjoyed the return of my favourite characters, including a sweet Southern blond guy. Mia's last scene with Liam was incredible, a truly well written scene of understanding that ultimately lead to a dream being realized and begin its path to fruition. It was a damn good thing I read this because honestly, if Sparks Rise had been left off the way it was, I would not have been impressed.
Author Alexandra Bracken has a strong voice and a very original mind. I absolutely loved this universe and all its characters, and it was nice to have a collection of short stories to show just how expanded the world was. I highly recommend it to all lovers of dark urban fantasy, and those who like reading some truly harrowing struggles with their main characters. As long as you can handle some dark and depressing endings, believe me when I say this is the series for you.