Title: Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)
Author: Veronica Rossi
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
Into the Still Blue has been a novel I have anticipated ever since I closed the covers of Under the Never Sky. Even before Through the Ever Night released, I wanted to know the fate of these characters who had become so beloved. Veronica Rossi, as expected, delivers magnificently, tying up all loose ends in a conclusion that is wholly satisfying. While this novel is not my favorite of the trilogy – Under the Never Sky still holds that position – it only emphasizes how difficult it is to pinpoint any flaws in this debut series. It’s not so much that Rossi’s novels are perfect, but rather that they are flawless in their imperfections. And if you thought your heart tore apart in Through the Ever Night, be prepared for an emotional journey that will wreck your body seven-fold.
Into the Still Blue picks up directly where Through the Ever Night leaves off, leaving the Tides in a precarious situation, the world around them in an even more tumultuous state, and the score of enemies in the horizon only increasing in number. Although Rossi ends each of her novels on a satisfying note, never leaving her readers with cliffhangers, it is quickly made clear that not all is as content as is suggested by the last few lines of Through the Ever Night. Not only are tempers rising – Roar’s grief, Perry’s underlying distrust of Aria, Aria’s guilt, the expectations of the Tides – but the stakes have risen too. Where Through the Ever Night was a much slower, introspective, and character-driven look at the tensions prevalent in this trilogy, Into the Still Blue is one-third heart-pounding action, one-third kick-ass planning, and one-third straight-up emotional upheaval. In other words, it’s not a journey you’re going to want to miss.
In retrospect, it’s easy to look back on this trilogy and pick apart everything that could have gone wrong with it. After all, Rossi deviates from the typical dystopian route almost completely. Not only do Aria and Perry fall in love – and have sex – all within the span of the first book itself, but the consecutive novels explore the growth of their relationship without a love triangle. Roar, who could have easily become another prospective love interest, is kept firmly in his place as best friend – first to Perry, then to Aria, and ultimately to them both. Moreover, the plot direction of this series has been clear-cut from the start. It is no secret that once Aria and Perry’s romance took off, the next goals were to assimilate the separated groups of humans and find a way to reach the Still Blue, escaping the dangerous Aether realm. Unlike a classic dystopian venture where the ultimate outcome is shrouded in mystery – Allegiant, anyone? – this trilogy banks upon its characters. In them, we are constantly taken by surprise; our emotions deftly played with. It is a shock to see a character-driven dystopian series; one not focused on plot, but rather the complex relationships between people. And yet, I doubt I can ever pick up a trilogy driven forward by plot again; Rossi’s method works far too well.
Where Into the Still Blue shines is in slowly unraveling all that we, as the readers, rely on. Perry and Roar’s friendship is ripped to shreds within the opening chapters; Aria and Perry’s relationship must work to become stronger after their past ordeals; Perry only continues to struggle between his emotions and his duty. Needless to say, it left me writhing with FEELS all throughout, but the payoff was more than worth it. Everything about Into the Still Blue felt so cohesive merely because Rossi drew upon plot threads from the past two books, bringing them back to examine their impact on her characters over time. Whether it be the uncovering of Aria’s father, the mysteries behind the existence of the Still Blue, or even just the gradual solidification of past relationships, Rossi leaves no stone unturned.
Into the Still Blue, despite its character-driven qualities, never fails to surprise with the influx of new – and old – secondary characters. Soren, in particular, undergoes a drastic amount of change in this novel, representing the gradual mix of Dweller and Savage. Moreover, as the hunt to rescue Cinder gets underway, everyone from Sable to Kirra is brought back to the center stage. Rossi gets ambiguity like few authors do and no one, from Roar to Sable, is without it. Not only are the villains in this novel complex, never cold-cut black-and-white, but the heroes are too. We’ve seen the bulk of Aria and Perry’s struggles in Through the Ever Night, which makes Into the Still Blue a very much Roar-centric storyline. A favorite of many, Roar is not without his flaws, as Rossi makes evident, but these imperfections only increase our love for him.
It is difficult for me to articulate just why this novel excels as a conclusion without giving away important plot threads. I feel as if I can only re-iterate that the character interactions in this novel are infused with so much depth that more than one re-read is necessary to understand their unspoken tones. Moreover, the evident themes in this novel are heart-breaking, particularly that of sacrifice. Rossi has never shied away from character deaths, whether it be in Under the Never Sky or in Through the Ever Night, which only means that she brings out all her guns in Into the Still Blue. And yet, I really appreciate the manner and meaning which Rossi brings to these characters – deceased or on the brink of death themselves. Furthermore, the invisible threads that connect all these characters to one another ensure their survival, at least in memory, which is far more important than it seems.
If Into the Still Blue has any flaws, it is only in its rather rushed conclusion. Rossi paces every scene perfectly, never dragging-out the romance or rushing the action. And yet, towards the end, I felt as if the full repercussions of the last few events could have been explored in greater depth. Additionally, I felt as if a few momentous scenes are a bit…anti-climactic. It’s not to say that Into the Still Blue didn’t end perfectly – it did – but I wished for a little more to it as well. With this trilogy bursting from the seams in its flawlessness, however, I have little to complain about. Into the Still Blue is, truly, the only ending I could have imagined for these characters and this world. While the narration itself is never tinged with bittersweet longing, my heart certainly is. I can only wait for Rossi to deliver yet another incredible series; I feel empty without one to look forward to.