There is no time for an "about" section. No; we are in for a ride, one that will be long, treacherous, and perhaps even spectacular. Today we will be discussing the final book in the Brambles series by Morgan Ray, Thicket.
First I would like to say that in my blog about Thorns I accidentally called Sam, Aziah. Oops. It wasn't until I was reading Thicket that I realized this and I was a bit embarrassed. Oh well, now that I've corrected myself, we can move forward to the real meat of my review.
Please note that this review is RIPE with SPOILERS so if you don't want to ruin your personal experience reading the Brambles series by Morgan Ray, please skip down to the Epilogue below.
I'm very careful when critiquing other's work, sometimes not even saying what I actually feel as not to hurt anyone's feelings. I don't know if you, the readers, notice this, but usually when I'm not to fond of a book, my blog will lack the usual personality I try to convey while writing. Or I'm just in a rush. Sometimes that's it. But what I'm trying to say is that I'm so afraid of hurting people's feelings, I'm not entirely honest. I tend to skip over the things I don't like and butter everything else up. I don't say my true feelings unless I'm passionate about the subject, and even then I'm not the most honest.
That now being said, sadly, I did not love Thicket.
"Ooh!" you might be thinking. "Valkyrie's going to totally destroy this book! She hates it! It must be awful!" Now, let me make this clear. I do not hate this series. I do not hate the author. I love both. I simply think this entry doesn't live up to everything the series has built up to. (See? I'm not that harsh.)
Now, for the sake of your eyes, I will be dividing this blog into multiple parts, one for each thing I didn't like. Feel free to take it slow, stop and come back later, or just not read it all. Whatever you like. I know I'll be writing this over the course of a few days.
Part One - The Death of Sidney - WARNING: SPOILERS ENSUE NOW
A main character is the center of a story, "the heart," if you must. Everything revolves around this character's adventures and decisions, because if they didn't exist there would be no story at all. Because the character is the main subject, they must be enjoyable to read about. After all, if the reader doesn't like the main character, than what motive do they have to finish the story? They obviously don't like the protag, so why would they care what happens to them?
Sidney/Aroura is the main character of the Brambles series, and like many people, became addicted to sex and died. Both literally and figuratively. Figuratively because she became a succubus and gave her life to save a man she herself killed, and once she became a succubus all of her good character points died.
Let me explain. In the first book, Brambles, Sidney was a good character. She lived with her crazy aunt in Portland, under the influence of her controlling grandma, and suddenly she discovers she's in charge of ending a 100-year curse. Her situation isn't something we can directly relate to, but we can relate to her personality. She wants to be able to make her own decisions, not be controlled and scout her own path in life, something more than a few of us can understand!
Everything went downhill for me when it was revealed that Sidney was half Succubus. It wouldn't have been a problem if the execution was dealt better, but it wasn't. Now in addition of the curse, Sidney was a half demonic immortal being, making her both overpowered and unrelatable. The reason why she became even more unrelatable was not only because she's a demonic powerhouse, but because the book began to branch off from the main story. No longer is she fighting against her family, but she's fighting against her evil father. Idk, maybe I'm missing the point.
(Also, maybe this is a bit a nitpick, but why did the Incubus want to get involved in the curse? Because Sidney was an Apt? Even so, why would that benefit him? I don't think this was ever explained, but perhaps I just missed that.)
Sidney's character continued to go downhill for me when things became less about her journey and more about her powers. While I did enjoy seeing more from Aziah and Megan, we get to see less and less of Sidney's inner struggle. The book isn't about her anymore- it's about what she has become. Take that as a good thing or a bad thing, but hopefully you understand where I'm coming from.
TL;DR, Sidney slowly has become a overpowered character over the course of the three books, but we really get to see that in Thicket.
Part Two - Love is Dead - SPOILER ALERTS WITHIN!
If you've read my other two posts on Brambles and Thorns, you'll know that this is a romance series. Now, while I'm not a big fan of the romance genre, I found myself extremely invested with the triangle/rectangle between Sidney, Reginald, Dorian, and Sam.
Sure, I was a tad heartbroken when Reginald was revealed to be the one who hired to kill Dorian, but he still was the best overall choice for Sidney. He managed to love her truly, despite the curse, and she even came to have some sort of feelings for him too.
Dorian, on the other hand, was my least favorite character. Though it's not really explained, Dorian went from a kind yet troubled gentleman to a possessive and cruel monster during the time he spent trapped in the thicket. Since the moment he met Aroura he was a mean jerk to her, flip-flopping between trying to win her over with gifts to being mean to her and her friends. When Sidney went full succubus, Dorian tried to manipulate her with sex and crime. The only reason Sidney went against the coven banishing him was because of the visions she saw before, visions of a Dorian she knew no longer existed.
But in between the two ghosts, there was Samantha. Sam always struck me as an odd yet good addition to Sidney's list of options. She was sort of a forbidden love, one that they both knew was impossible and dangerous. Sam was a motive for Sidney to try and find a different way to break the curse, so that they could be together.
Now, look at this: A list of three probable choices. All of which could equally be plausible. Now imagine my absolute heartbreak, anger, distain, whatever you would like to call it, when all of these relationships went south in a matter of sentences.
The Reggie Relationship - SPOLERS WITHIN!
This romantic option immediately and suddenly ended in the final chapter. Reginald isn't even there when Sidney says that Reggie didn't actually love her. I mean... WHAT? Now that's what I call some BS. So you're telling me the whole time Reginald was faking it (or at least fooling himself) into loving her because of the curse? No. That's impossible. The whole series Reginald has done things... things of true love for Sidney. What about the dramatic part when he confessed to her? That was fake?
THEN, Reggie gets together with Sidney's friend, Meghan, a character they have no emotional connection with. The only hint of romantic chemistry between them was when Meghan accidentally confessed she liked Reginald. And by the way, how in the three-something days they knew each other did she manage to fall for him? WHAT?And now they're in love. All the romantic possibilities between Aurora and Reggie just out the window for this pathetic weakness couple (that's the opposite of power couple, btw).
2. The Sam Relationship - SPOLERS WITHIN!
Again, this relationship immediately and suddenly ended in the final chapter. Sam isn't even there when Sidney says that Sam didn't love her. Seem familiar? Basically she explains it that Samantha only loved succubus Sidney, not human Sidney. That is more if not equal BS. Sam was a strong member of the "Sidney can be cured" team, and literally sacrificed her witch family to be with her. Sam was so against the coven killing Sidney BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT SHE WAS ONLY A DEMON that she gave up everything. And now this potential relationship is gone because of some last minute excuse? So her sacrifice was for nothing, basically.
3. The Dorian Relationship - SPOILERS WITHIN!
I mean, who doesn't love abusive relationships? OK, OK, I know it was merely hinted that Dorian "got the girl" but still, if that is true, I'm going to go crazy. Need I remind you of the heinous acts he committed? He manipulated Sidney, assaulted her friends, and emotionally abused her. And now she's getting together with him because of past memories. Now that's what I call healthy.
Part Three - The End is Near - SPOILERS WITHIN!
These aren't really big topics, but there are two, little things that I had problems with:
- Meghan is suddenly psychic? I can be more forgiving for this one because it was already sort of hinted before the reveal, but as you know I have an agenda with Meghan. Why did she keep it a secret before if she knew Sidney was in trouble? Sure, maybe she was embarrassed, but I don't think the existence of magic was a secret at that point.
- Aziah got hugely downplayed this book even though she's one of the best characters. Sure, she got a few chapters, but she could have been completely removed and nothing would've changed.
Epilogue (This is safe to read!)
I do believe I said everything I need to say, so for those who skipped directly to the end, here's a little epilogue:
If the Brambles series was three different rides at an amusement park, this is
what the books would be: Brambles, the first book, would be an exhilarating and fast ride, like one of those big spiny things that whip you around like you're flying. But it would end far too soon, leaving you wanting more, only for you to discover the ride is closed for the day.
Thorns would be a roller coaster, but one that shoots you off rocket speed at the start, and has loop-de-loops and turns at all the wrong times. By the end you feel a little dizzy, but you still want to see what else the park has to offer.
You finally get on to Thicket, which is a baby ride, that spins you around so slowly, you feel like you could have handled a little more ooomphf.
I don't have much hope we'll get a fourth book, but may I request a spinoff in the future? As unexpected as Thicket was, Morgan Ray is an exceedingly good writer and I would love to read anything of hers, Brambles series or not. I'd love for you to read the three books and tell me what you think: Do you agree or disagree with this review?
The Brambles books will forever have a spot on my bookshelf and will remain among my favorite reads. I will be looking forward to more books by Ms. Ray. Brambles came close to being the next Tiger's Curse, which is one of my favorite series, so that's aiming pretty high for a new series from a first-time author.