Date Read: February 13 - 18 2015
Date Published: March 24th 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
"In the stunning conclusion to the Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy, there is nothing more dangerous that a secret closely kept... Cass and Luca are fugitives, on the run from the law and the deadly Order of the Eternal Rose. As they separate to pursue the only evidence that could save them, their worlds-and their romance-are torn apart by spiteful friends and murderous enemies. When Cass finds herself ensnared in the Order's twisted plot, Falco emerges once again as her only hope for freedom. But it turns out Luca has a shocking scheme of his own. From ancient mercenaries to sly magicians, from clever courtesans to vengeful killers, no one can be trusted. In the breathtaking conclusion to the Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy, Cass must confront the Order and once and for all decide her destiny. Who will fly beside her when she finally finds her wings? This historical romantic thriller is perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, Anna Godberson's The Luxe, and Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty and The Diviners."
Cass has always been my biggest issue throughout the series and I find that her character is the weakest link, dragging the books down when they could have been a lot better. I seem to always have issues with heroines in historical novels as I find them annoying, weak, stubborn and more often than not, stupid when they’re trying to be brave. Either I’m not reading well-written historical novels or this is just the way they have to be and historical novels aren’t for me. There’s a definite struggle to keep the customs and limitations of women in accordance with history while balancing the need for character growth and acts of bravery. Throughout Starling, I found Cass’s actions to be rash and ignorant. Every time she said she was trying to be brave and she would think things through, she was actually running headlong into situations and putting everybody around her at risk. It killed me and I wanted to shake some sense into her. I feel that she hasn’t grown at all throughout the series and while brave, she’s also immature and ignorant of the consequences of her actions. What I did like though was that Cass made decisions for herself and not because of her love interests which is what I thought the previous books did.
As secondary characters go, everybody has always been black or white. You’re either a good guy or a bad guy. For me, the characters lacked the layering I’d expect of a conspiracy type historical story. I expected characters to have hidden agendas, complex motives and the like but instead, it was straight-laced “I want this, I will get this, that’s it.” And that, in turn, killed the plot.
Funnily enough my favourite part of this series was the love triangle. I’m a hater of love triangles and don’t find them necessary but from the beginning of The Secrets of the Eternal Rose, I’ve always been conflicted about the guys. In this world, a love triangle was plausible, made sense and I liked the differences between the two love interests. This series was one of the only ones where I actually had no clue where the romance was headed and who Cass would end up with – it could really have gone both ways. I loved Falco’s passion, intensity and volatility but at the same time I loved Luca’s stability, strength and unwavering support. Luca was a real constant while Falco came and left leaving a storm in his wake every time as he challenged her beliefs. I’m happy to say I would have been fine with whoever she ended up with but what’s more important is how Cass got there – I liked her decision process and the way the book progressed to allow her these revelations of which guy was right for her. I’m happy with her choice!
In terms of the plot, it was Cass’s determination to get to the Book of the Eternal Rose so I didn’t think there was much there as a lot had been established in Belladonna. Cass faced various obstacles but to me they weren’t major and I felt like I was driving on a straight road where I knew my destination. I wasn’t thrown any curve balls and I wasn’t really wow’d in any way.
The series definitely sits on the younger end of YA for me – I’m not sure why I think that. Some of the themes are definitely mature but it read like a MG book. The world-building is great as usual, with lovely (and not so lovely) detailed descriptions of Venice, filled with sights and smells. I felt that Paul was really on point with the historical accuracy of this. Despite all the issues I had, I found that Paul managed to tie up all the loose ends and bring the series to a satisfying close.