Review: 'Til The World Ends by Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre, Karen Duvall

Sunday, September 29, 2013
Title: 'Til The World Ends
Author: Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre,Karen Duvall
Genre: post-apocalyptic, romance
Series: Blood of Eden 0.5
Pages: 361 (ARC edition)
Published: January 29, 2013
Source: Publishers
Rating: 4/5
New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed authors Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre and Karen Duvall imagine what it takes to survive in a world where everything you know—and love—is about to disappear…forever.

Dawn of Eden by Julie Kagawa
Before The Immortal Rules, there was Red Lung, a relentless virus determined to take out all in its path. For Kylie, the miracle of her survival is also her burden—as a doctor at one of the clinics for the infected, she is forced to witness endless suffering. What's worse, strange things are happening to the remains of the dead, and by the time she befriends Ben Archer, she's beginning to wonder if a global pandemic is the least of her problems….

Thistle & Thorne by Ann Aguirre
After a catastrophic spill turns the country into a vast chemical wasteland, those who could afford it retreated to fortresses, self-contained communities run by powerful corporations. But for Mari Thistle, life on the outside—in the Red Zone—is a constant struggle. To protect her family, Mari teams up with the mysterious Thorne Goodman. Together, they'll face an evil plot in both the underworld of the Red Zone and the society inside the fortresses that could destroy those on the outside…for good.

Sun Storm by Karen Duvall
Sarah Daggot has been chasing storms since she was a child. But after the biggest solar flares in history nearly destroy the planet, she becomes a Kinetic, endowed by her exposure to extreme radiation with the power to sense coming storms—in the cosmos and beyond. And she's not the only one. Sarah believes the Kinetics are destined to join forces and halt the final onslaught of the sun. She'll vow to keep trying to convince the one missing link in their chain of defense, the enigmatic Ian Matthews, up until the world ends.

Reviewed by Danielle

This anthology by three big names in the young adult/urban fantasy genres, takes three very different looks at the end of the world. With strong heroines and a romantic bend, each author's novella pits the protagonist against a different catastrophe to Earth. Individual reviews follow.

Dawn of Eden by Julie Kagawa - 2.5 stars

As most of the reviewers of the anthology, I picked this up primarily for Julie’s story. Obviously the editors were also aware of her pull, as she receives more than 40% of the total book. Unlike most of the other early reviews, I was extremely dissatisfied with this short.

Kylie is med student working at a clinic outside Washington DC “treating” victims of the deadly Red Lung Virus. Unfortunately for Kylie, the victims, and the world at large, there is no treatment but hope and morphine for the pain. Most people die from the virus turning their lungs to jelly, but Kylie is a rare survivor and it has left her immune to the disease and its mutations, making her the perfect candidate to run a quickly failing clinic.

Life trudges along, growing darker and more bleak every day, until suddenly! Ben Archer and his life-changing beauty stroll into the clinic. Everything would be awfully swell, if he wasn’t dragging his buddy, bearing suspiciously humanoid bites. From there, we devolve into a frightfully standard zombie/vampire plot that I originally described as “"Have you ever thought, ‘Man I wish I Am Legend was actually a romance novel!’?” Now I know this was probably way harsh, as it also includes liberal doses of World War Z and 28 Days Later.

The story is so derivative as to be boring. It takes the worst of the zombie genre and the worst of the romance genre. The love scenes are incongruous and came out of nowhere. The first sex scene, when Kylie and Ben have sex in the middle of a Rabid attack, felt extremely out of place for what we knew of Kylie’s character. I’m not one to judge a woman for getting some end of the world nookie, but by her own admission, it’s not something that she usually would do, except she’s so in love with Ben. After 2 days. And if that’s not enough, his magic fingers bring Kylie to climax just as a Rabid screams outside, “chilling and terrifying, but [she was] too far gone to even care”. Funny in a way I’m sure the author did not intend.

As a prequel to Blood of Eden, Dawn of Eden did nothing for me, and as a stand alone short, it did less.

Thistle & Thorne by Ann Aguirre - 4.5 stars

This, on the other hand, did a lot, for me and the anthology. Mari Thistle is a thief specializing in pre-disaster antiquities in hard to reach/dangerous locals. An orphan raising two younger siblings, Mari takes a job with a local crime boss, Stavros, to recover a statuette from inside the “Fortresses”. These heavily guarded communities house the rich and powerful, while the rest of the populace is doomed to struggle along in the Red Zone.

Sadly for Mari, Stavros gives her terrible, outdated intel that almost immediately launches her into a high speed chase from robot guards with one of his hired men, Thorne Goodman. The ruggedly handsome Thorne, (can I interject that I LOVED the idea that beauty standards have changed in the post-apocalyptic future and Mari is super attracted to his scar because it means he can fight?) reveals that Mari was never supposed to make it out of the Fortress and he is supposed to take her to be executed for her failure. Instead, Thistle and Thorne team up to take out Stavros instead, though don’t mistake Thorne’s reasoning for altruistic. He wants to take the mob boss’ place to avenge a mysterious girl in his past.

The romance is far subtler than the last story, but infinitely more effective than insta-love boinking. The plot moved along at a good clip, the characters developed, and the final confrontation was tense and exciting. My only true complaint is rather abrupt end, that closes without wrapping up all of the loose threads. Hopefully Aguirre intends to expand on the world in future stories.

Sun Storm by Karen Duvall - 4 stars

I have to admit that Sun Storm’s plot felt the thinnest of the three. Solar storms cause most people caught in them to die of radiation poisoning, but some special people are granted solar radiation-based super powers. There is a love story, that while not instant, is a little too quick for comfort. And the end? Ridiculous, contrived, and fell into place too quickly.

So why four stars?

Because none of that mattered while I was reading it. I gave my grades as soon as I was done and in the moment, I really enjoyed Sun Storm. I’ve spent a week trying to describe why and it’s just not happening. Sometimes it’s not enough to just detail what makes a book good or bad, you have to go with how it makes you feel. And Sun Storm with zombies, rogue government agents, and magic powers still ended up working just right.

Sometimes, you just can’t articulate what makes a book work. You just have to go with your gut and hope it's not ripped out by irradiated monsters.

While I didn't enjoy one of the three stories, I still recommend this anthology highly. Aguirre is a revelation and Duvall takes a ludicrous plot and makes it enjoyable. 

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