Review: Amnesty

Posted: May 9, 2019 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Lara Elena Donnelly, Fantasy

AMNESTY (Amazon) is the final book in the AMBERLOUGH DOSSIER and if you’ve read my earlier reviews for AMBERLOUGH (EBR Review) and ARMISTICE (EBR Review) you know that I love a good character driven, unrelentingly grim novel. If that isn’t your scene, I recommend browsing through some of our other reviews because AMNESTY follows closely in the same vein as the first two novels in the series both in attention to characters and level of grimness.

Cyril DePaul has been found. Not, as it turns out, by his own choice. And while he has been recently returned to Gedda in body, his spirit is too broken for it to make a difference. Cyril is paralyzed by remorse after betraying home and country, and the recent defeat of the Ospies by Cordelia’s Catwalk can’t erase the damage done to him or his home. His return to Gedda isn’t met with enthusiasm–even Aristide, who has followed him back to Amberlough, doesn’t seem quite sure what to do with him. His sister Lillian is dealing with her son’s dismal performance at school and cleaning up their lives from the wreck of the Ospies, which means that she’s hanging on to her career and her personal life by her fingernails even before her brother shows up. Cyril coming into the mix may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The rest of the plot of AMNESTY mirrors AMBERLOUGH in many ways. An ongoing and fierce election means that when Cyril’s presence in Gedda is revealed to local power-brokers, he becomes a stepping stone on their path to power. Except this time Aristide isn’t going to let him disappear.

Most of the plot that I summarized happens (perhaps) much later than you might assume. About a third of the way through the novel I had a slight moment of readerly panic when I realized I wasn’t wholly sure what the plot was. I was invested enough in the characters at this point that I kept reading and my patience paid off, but I would say that my main critique of AMNESTY is similar to my central critique of ARMISTICE. Donnelly lays a lot of the groundwork for the action and it’s such a slow burn that it took over half the book for me to even have an inkling of where things were headed. However, what at first feels like plot at loose ends reveals itself to be a precursor to a tightly executed and emotionally satisfying second half.

Donnelly excels at sketching even minor characters in a few quick strokes which makes her world feel full and real. Her POV characters are vibrant and complicated and snarky and it’s pretty great. She has a real eye for the physical reactions and gestures by which humans lie and cheat and love and it’s great to see her use that observational skill to build up her world.

What at first feels like plot at loose ends reveals itself to be a precursor to a tightly executed and emotionally satisfying second half in AMNESTY.

Donnelly is brutal to her protagonists, pushing them well past any semblance of their old selves. She isn’t interested in redeeming or reuniting the Aristide and Cyril that flirted and fought their way through AMBERLOUGH. Instead we come to them irreparably broken, not just older and grayer but traumatized, alcoholic, scarred in body and mind. Their connection is a smoldering ember, waiting to be blown aflame, but just as possibly extinguished by the smallest breath of air. I still missed some of the glamor and glitz of the first book–Aristide and Cyril were never exactly having fun but they were in their own element. Now that they’ve returned, the contrast between their former and current selves is stark and Donnelly deliberately plays with that difference. Lillian’s POV was a great part of ARMISTICE and she has a nice arc in the book. I continued to enjoy her POV especially to see it in contrast now with Cyril.

Even secondary characters like Daoud get final moment onstage, which was just great. AMNESTY does provide rewarding (and heart wrenching) emotional beats throughout, with a resolution that, given the preceding pages, was a little gentler to the characters than I had expected. I welcomed a momentary reprieve from the sadness even if I could play out the next few years in my head and see that what looked like sunny sailing for some characters was perhaps just a temporary port in a storm. It’s a fitting resolution to a series that I enjoyed.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: Some crude comments
  • Violence: References to suicidal ideation, torture and war are the backdrop
  • Sex: One scene with a minimal fade

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