July 12, 2012

We're All In This Together (review: Endure by Carrie Jones)

Endure
Carrie Jones
Bloomsbury 2012

Endure is the fourth and final book in Carrie Jones’ Need series and this review contains spoilers for the initial three books.  If you’re OK with that then read on.

Things are ramping up in Maine – seriously, Stephen King has nothing on Zara’s world of Pixies, Norse gods, Buffy-obsessed sidekicks and tiger grannies.  Safely back from Valhalla, Zara now finds herself on the verge of war: human versus pixie versus Were versus the Gods only know what else.  As if that wasn’t enough, her evil sort-of-mother-in-law remains out to get her, boyfriend Nick is busy being entirely ungrateful that she travelled to another realm to rescue him and sort-of-husband Astley remains good, kind and alluring despite the fact that he is a pixie King and therefore must be at least a little bit evil – or at least a bit, er, conflicted.  Complicated much?  Exactly.

Zara continues to be one of the nicest protagonists in recent paranormal titles.  She’s focussed, kind, funny, confused, principled and increasingly kick-ass.  In Endure, the grand finale of Jones’ series, she’s really put through the mill facing terrible odds in a fight that is sure to end in at least a few dozen deaths.  On top of this she finds herself in an equally untenable battle as regards her personal life.  Having fought against bigotry on a world-wild scale (yep, she’s still writing Amnesty letters) she now faces it personally, something that is at the heart of the saddest moments of her story.  As the book reaches its grand climax, though, Zara emerges as strong as ever and the end of her story – on both personal and epic levels – seems entirely right in terms of both her personality and her character development.

Her increasingly large team of co-fighters, friends and family are a particularly well written ensemble.  Most of her close friends get a good amount of face time (with the exception of Devyn who gets rather left out in the cold), with Izzie remaining a particularly likeable presence.  Her family also make appearances (although her mother, thank goodness, seems to have abandoned her to the mercy of the pixies for good) and her Grandmother continues to be the most awesome granny in fiction.  The men in her life act in complete contrast to each other, which works as a means to an end if nothing else.  Astley remains entirely likable without ever seeming sickly sweet – truly, he is more than a bit adorable.  Nick, however, is probably the most nuanced character in the entire series and his inability to put his own beliefs to one side has direct repercussions on his relationship with Zara.  It would have been nice to see him more severely reprimanded for his innate bigotry, not to mention his use of “baby” as a term of endearment (ick) but the resolution of their story carries the air of compromise and is more believable because of it.

The plot of Endure is actually pretty complex for such a slight book and builds to both an exciting and also slightly bizarre ending.  At no point was there any hint that a Pixie War version of High School Musical was on its way and to a certain extent readers will have to suspend belief in order to swallow the fact that Zara’s merry men seem to be not only hot but also all singing all dancing stars of track and field.  However, it is nothing if not entertaining and certainly leads to a few lovely set pieces.  As with previous titles, Jones has Izzie make endless references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Endure owes a lot to Buffy in terms of characterisation and tone – whether this is intentional or not it is hard to entirely overlook it as dodgy expositioning but it really doesn’t detract from the enjoyment factor.

What has always set Jones’ series apart from other paranormal YA is its sheer originality of premise – not even Buffy could have imagined pixies as human sized, fang toothed extras from Avatar and Carrie Jones has succeeded in not only making them believable in their origin and links to Norse myth but also making them pretty terrifying.  All four books, while not perfect, are massively fun, introduce Norse mythology nicely and are chock full of interesting, flawed and believable characters.  While Endure marks the end of the road for Zara and company, it is going to be incredibly interesting to see what Jones comes up with next.  Certainly, one gets the feeling that it’s going to be a little different…


This review was brought to you by Splendibird. Endure is available in bookstores now.  Many thanks to Bloomsbury for sending this title to review.

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