I wasn’t sure who was more relieved when it finally arrived—me or the postman I’d been shaking down for days—so I’m a little disappointed to say that although Ascend was good, it wasn’t as great as I’d salivatingly anticipated it would be.
The book opens with the queen near death and Wendy, the queen to be, effectively running the show. Hanging over everyone’s heads is the knowledge that as soon as the queen carks it, Wendy will be coronated.
Apart from providing her with a fancy crown, her coronation will mean that the peace treaty, which promises that the Vittra won’t attack the Trylle kingdom until Wendy is queen, will be rendered null and void. Oh, and in the opening chapters Wendy and Tove get married.
Still with me?
There’s not a lot I want to write about the book, which spends almost its entirety puzzling over how prevent the Trylle being slaughtered after the dissolution of the treaty. Sure, they needed to build up to the climax, but I had the same reaction I did to tediously long third book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Are we there yet? Hurry up, already.
Perhaps the plot point that proved my stumbling point—and here I’m issuing an absolutely massive, couldn’t-be-any-bigger spoiler alert—is that I didn’t think Hocking quite get the love triangle right. Ergo, Wendy ends up with the wrong guy.
The thing that makes love triangles so appealing is their constant push–pull. In any given moment on any given day, the object of the love (in this case Wendy) is supposed to lean towards one and then the other guy. You can see that hugely in modern-day, pop-culture equivalents Twilight (Bella, Edward, and Jacob) and The Vampire Diaries (Elena, Stefan, and Damon).
The love triangle should go like this: The female lead falls in love with the first-named guy, but there’s always the Plan-B-could-almost-be-Plan-A guy waiting in the wings. The moment Plan A’s out of the picture—most likely on mis-directed, self-flagellating banishments to keep her out of danger—she starts to see Plan B in a new light and he morphs into Plan A. Then the original Plan A returns. Tension ensues over which lover she’ll choose. The original Plan A invariably wins, but it’s always a tenuous, temporary victory. Then the whole thing is reset and replays.
I’m all for reinventing the love triangle, and kudos to Hocking for trying. Her whole love quadrangle thing was an interesting twist, courtesy of having Wendy marry not just a guy she didn’t love but a guy who would never love her because he was gay.
The problem is that I don’t think it ever 100% rang true and, having set it up as the thing that absolutely had to happen in order to save the kingdom, Hocking suddenly discarded it. How could she have Wendy divorce Tove when the only reason she married him was to avert a power struggle and to marry their genetics in order to save the Trylle race? Why couldn’t they stay married and sneak around with the ones they truly loved?
Which brings me to the Finn and Loki issue. It’s not that I didn’t like Loki, because I did and I do. But Hocking spent the first two books setting Finn up as Plan A. Then she ditched him without warning, good reason, or dramatic tension when it got to book three. It’s ok that Wendy developed feelings for Loki, but she completely un-developed feelings for Finn, which isn’t.
Hocking lost me when she broke the love triangle. The book’s dramatic tension slackened and I, frankly, got my grump on. It’s unfair to make me, as the reader, care about a character for two books and then try to make me un-care and accept an interloping lover in book three.
It would be like Stephenie Meyer replacing Edward without warning and no more than a shrug. It would then be like her closing the door on him reclaiming his original crown of Plan A. We like Jacob, but we love and have come to better know Edward—no matter what happens, Bella without Edward in some capacity (even as a dodgy CGI ghost chasing her on a motorbike) doesn’t quite work.
Likewise, without reading too much into it (which I clearly did), I think Wendy ending up with Loki sent the wrong message. That is, despite saying for two books that class rules need to be broken and a royal can fall in love with and marry a commoner, Hocking inadvertently ended up saying that bluebloods and commoners don’t get a happily ever after together.
I say bring back the tried-and-true, love-conquers-all love triangle.