I found myself grasping at why I liked this series so much. I still cannot give you a quick, one-sentence answer. Instead, I will torture you or humour you with a bit of a stream of consciousness review. (Edited so as not to be as confusing and bumbling as my soc is in reality.)
There are moments of beautiful insight in this series that catch you by surprise. The more I write reflections after finishing novels and series, the clearer my preferences have become to myself. One thing I have learned will have singing praises is the presence of provoking sentences and thoughts in unexpected places. In the midst of an action/adventure, coming of age story in the eyes of a modern teenager is not exactly where you expect to find ruminations on life, relationships, and the nature of love.
“To some it might’ve seemed callous, the way she boxed up her pain and set it aside, but I knew her well enough now to understand. She had a heart the size of France, and the lucky few whom she loved with it were loved with every square inch—but its size made it dangerous, too. If she let it feel everything, she’d be wrecked. So she had to tame it, shush it, shut it up. Float the worst pains off to an island that was quickly filling with them, where she would go to live one day.” –
This excerpt is just one insight. I clearly identify with this, or I would not post it, but there are more just as simply and beautifully put sprinkled throughout the series that make it more than your typical young adult novel.
The story line is original. Yes, it is good vs evil. Yes, it is a modernised coming of age tale. However, execution is everything. Riggs does a wonderful job telling an entertaining, action-packed, and sweet story. The use of antique manipulated pictures contributes to, not takes from, the authenticity of the tale. (Although there are one or two spots where it is a bit rocky because the author almost does an aside to describe an upcoming photograph.) I rather enjoyed the conclusion of the story – it was reminiscent of Candide and The Alchemist.