(Note: This review may contain spoilers. Consider yourself warned.)
So, I actually finished reading FINAL BATTLE two days ago. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this review.
There was a short period of time where I considered just not reviewing it, because I’m kind of conflicted about it. I decided it was better to try and get my thoughts down rather than trying to keep them all bottled up, though, so here goes.
FINAL BATTLE is the third (and final) book of the IN HER NAME saga. It’s the epic conclusion to the story of Reza Gard which began in EMPIRE and continued on through CONFEDERATION.
I think that I can safely say that I really enjoyed about 90% of this book. The overall plot direction, continued character development and writing style are all very solid and continue Michael Hicks’ pattern of excellence. I continued to see the influence of science fiction greats, but they in no way overshadowed what is clearly Hicks’ own personality and focus shining through in a stirring, fantastic story.
Now comes the hard part. I have two quibbles with this book, and unfortunately, these aren’t minor ones.
Here’s the final score for those who’d like to know what I thought of the book without reading the spoilers.
For the grand conclusion to the saga of the fascinating Kreelans, overall plot direction and tight, page-turning storytelling, I would have given FINAL BATTLE a full 5 stars. However, my two not-so-minor quibbles with the ending force me to drop it to 4.
Read on if you’ve read the book, or if you don’t mind me basically giving away the ending. Otherwise, stop here and do not go on.
Final Score: 4 out of 5 stars. Recommended.
(Spoilers ahead. This is your last warning.)
My problems arise within the last 5,000-10,000 words of the story. The antagonist, Markus Thorella, was never a particularly subtle character. He happily danced WAY on the far side of the Moral Event Horizon pretty much from the moment we met him, and Hicks did a great job making us hate this character for everything he did, especially how perfectly he set Reza up at the end of CONFEDERATION to prepare him for taking the fall for the events which set off FINAL BATTLE.
With how much I already gleefully hated Thorella, there was absolutely no reason for the frankly shocking and brutal scene near the end. I actually ended up having to skim it. I won’t go into the details deeply here in this review, but I felt that it was actually a bit gratuitous and unnecessary either for plot or character development.
Given this particular scene, however, it becomes several times more imperative that Reza finish him off in a satisfying manner, like he’d been promising for all of CONFEDERATION and FINAL BATTLE so far.
Yep, you read that right. Reza doesn’t actually deliver the killing blow that we’ve been expecting for two whole books.
I had a discussion about this with my wife and some friends after seeing Harry Potter 7.2 in the theater last weekend. Harry never actually has to make the choice to kill Voldemort – it’s taken care of for him by the villain’s own failings. In my eyes (and I realize that this is mostly subjective) this cheapens the hero’s accomplishments, because he never has to make the hard choice to do what has to be done. It’s all taken care of for him, and he gets to keep his hands clean.
What I found most odd about the end of FINAL BATTLE, though, is that Reza is in no way Harry Potter. He’s no children’s book hero, who’s forced to keep his hands clean because it’s ‘for the kids’. Reza is a cold-blooded killer, trained on an alien world, who has zero compunctions about slaughtering those who deserve it and doing what needs to be done. Yet he never delivers vengeance for all of the things that Thorella did to him and to those he loved, and that really disappointed me.
At the beginning of CONFEDERATION, we’re told that Reza knows that one day he will have to kill Markus Thorella. And yet it can be said that, by the end of FINAL BATTLE, Reza didn’t have anything to do with Thorella’s death. He died by misadventure, and I just couldn’t find it satisfying.
If Reza had fulfilled the promise made to us, I probably would have given the gratuitous brutal scene a pass… but with the two combined together, it unfortunately turned into a pretty serious disappointment for me.