I have mixed feelings about Into the Still Blue. I enjoyed it; like the books before it, they are easy and entertaining reads with enough gumption to keep you reading. However, there are some parts of the book that felt disjointed from the first two books. More on that later.
Summary of the book contains spoilers of Through the Ever Night: With Dwellers who escaped the collapse of the Pods and the Outsiders of the Tides tribe now living together, tensions are high, differences are refused to be reconciled and solutions are dwindling. With the Aether storms intensifying and their friend, Cinder, kidnapped, our protagonists Aria and Perry, along with an unexpected group of people, undertake a dangerous rescue mission to save their friend and escape into the Still Blue, a rumoured place of peace and calm skies.
I have been thinking about why this book was difficult to summarize (at least, it was for me). I think one of the most distinct reasons is because, given that this book is a finale, many loose ends need to be tied up and questions have to be answered. Although the book was written in a coherent, structured manner, and many events occur, but in retrospect some of the seemingly important events feel uninspired and are forgettable, and lack the distinctive quality that Through the Ever Night had. In saying that however, I enjoyed the book’s ending; Into the Still Blue‘s conclusion is satisfying with a tint of bittersweet (which I appreciated, given the loss the characters endure).
Despite the weakness in the plot, if there’s one thing I always liked about this series, it was its characters – the redeeming quality of this series (and may be the only reason why I decided to finish this trilogy). Now that I have read all three, my opinions on Aria (as per review here and here) remain unchanged; I find Aria a boring, predictable and a forgettable protagonist, to the extent that her character development regresses from Through the Ever Night. Even with the introduction of a new character (those who have read the book will know whom I am talking about), Aria’s responses to this character were heard-this-before and have been overdone many times over. Aria’s emotional reactions to anything often feel very superficial and shallow; like the minute thoughts that she has are just a way to convey that she is capable of cognition – nothing more – because they never amount to something meaningful. Aria’s predictability is exhausting sometimes, especially when you know that the book could do so much better if Aria was different. Thankfully, Aria is a character among many in this series, and she is overshadowed by many in this book.
Before I delve into characters that I loved in this series (and Into the Still Blue in particular), here’s my two cents on Perry. Whilst I really did like Perry in the previous two books, Perry’s character development is stagnant in the finale. In fact, I felt like Perry’s character was unfamiliar — I suppose in the previous two books, Perry’s narrative was filled with doubt and introspection, which this last book lacks. Granted, given its length and the many things going on in the plot, there may not have been any room for this sort of narrative, but I felt like Perry without the introspection, the rhetorical questions that he asked himself wasn’t… Perry. The narrative felt different, felt disjointed from the previous books.
Characters that deserve praise: like every other reader of this series, I’m a fan of Roar and I remain so after the series’ conclusion. Though Roar is a ‘different’ person from whom he is in the previous books (spoiler: I mean, when the love of your life is killed in front of you, you’re bound to be hellbent on getting revenge, right?), there’s something quite heartbreaking in how he turns his grief into rage and also insecurity. In this book, Roar makes many mistakes and most of it is rooted to his pain. When Roar and Perry have their talk with each other, we witness a really well-executed dynamic between them. Roar feels three-dimensional; the reason why people like him so much is because he is an interesting character that has substance, and, honestly, readers love a character with charm and wit.
Also, the reintroduction of Soren was interesting; I hope he becomes a bigger character in the third book because I am interested to see how Rossi will develop his character (if she does, that is) and what significant roles he might have.
– well, Rossi does develop his character, and I actually like Soren. Like Roar, Soren is an interesting character and feels three-dimensional to me. The way how he develops from this anti-Outsider who has a strange interest with Aria to someone who is driven with a cause (evident when he talks to the Dwellers in the cave and they express wanting to just wait until their deaths rather than taking action) to do something important to him. It was rewarding, as a reader, to see a minor character fleshed out to become an character that plays a greater role in the series.
Lastly, and perhaps unexpected, I liked Sable, the antagonist of Into the Still Blue. Though Sable wouldn’t ever make my Favourite/Memorable Villains list, I do enjoy interesting villains with a philosophy and Sable is one of those villains. Though he possesses the traits of your typical villain: immoral, manipulative, brutal and clever, readers will actually witness that Sable is all of those things, rather than other characters describing him as such in passing. Sable’s cold but clever plan to divide his subjects to decrease morale and implement his rule whilst everyone is confused, hurt or disorientated is very reminiscent of the military doctrine of shock and awe/the shock doctrine. Honestly, I prefer the use of a real military doctrine to sustain dominance over some unconvincing account of how Sable just took over the people and the people acquiesced without resistance (because we know how often that has happened).
I know I talk a great deal about characters when I review the Under the Never Sky series, but that owes to the fact that there isn’t much else special or distinct about the series. The reason why the books of Under the Never Sky can never exceed a 3.5/5 for me is because it lacks an overarching theme or moral of the series (I mean, there are a few, such as doing what is right or we all make mistakes, but we have the potential to be better or nice ideas about friendship). The Under the Never Sky series may be entertaining (and if that’s what you look for in a book, by all means!) but it doesn’t enter the fray; it isn’t brave enough in its message to be a dystopian or science fiction. On topic of genres, with specific regard to Into the Still Blue, whilst the previous books I classified as Romances, I found that Into the Still Blue lacked that Romance quality. Though there is romance present between Aria and Perry, the romance between them is largely saturated at this point of the books.
To sum, Into the Still Blue has a satisfying ending and is an entertaining, quick read, but as a whole, its loss of the series’s personality and tendency to feel disjointed from the previous books may leave some readers feeling a little unsure or confused about the direction or character of the series. Nonetheless, if Rossi writes any more books in the future, I would not pass up the opportunity to give them a read — actually, I’d be quite excited at the prospect of her writing more books! Ah, well, time will tell. For now, I enjoyed the series from a casual reader standpoint and I recommend the series to people who like an easy read, is somewhat entertaining but doesn’t engage with you on an intellectual level.
Book Name: Into the Still Blue
Book Series: Under the Never Sky #3
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: Harper Collins Publisher