Novel: The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin | Goodreads
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.
Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.
Retribution has arrived.
This book is particularly why I don’t read series endings. It was emotionally exhausting. It was both remarkably similar to the first book in ways that carried a specific timbre of voice, but different enough to jolt me out of the comfort zone I’d established over the course of the first two books. This book is blisteringly good, and it leaves me slightly disturbed and slightly wanting to cry and slightly loving the effect the books have had on me since I first read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer in 2011.
Mara’s gone downhill: not in her quality of character but in her mental state. Mara Dyer is no longer the sweeter, shaky girl from the first book trying to figure out what’s wrong with her. Mara Dyer is lethal and dangerous and cold in a way that’s repulsive and strange and endlessly fascinating. And somehow you still love her as a character.
The book itself is rather graphic in terms of death and violence. A lot of the book is built on shock factor, which would be iffy in the hands of any author but Hodkin does a brilliant job with it. Mara does acts that make her unease over wishing somebody dead in the first book look like child’s play.
Part of what makes this series so harrowing as a whole is the gruesome psychological accuracy with which each element is presented. There’s something startlingly disconcerting about the constant uncertainty of wondering whether or not Mara is ever actually crazy, or ever actually good.
The book itself is marvelously done. Michelle Hodkin researches her concepts so well and ingrains them deeply into the plot. The eerie flashbacks that dominated The Evolution of Mara Dyer are present in full-force, in a way that’s thoughtfully scattered throughout the novel. Mara Dyer peaks, in ways both good and bad, and it’s striking, to finally make a choice between crazy/not-crazy, evil/not-evil. The book does a thrilling job of exploring the muddy areas, the lines between decisions that should be black-and-white for most (and it does a wonderful job with the stigma and struggles of mental illness.)
There are a few things I thought could have been done more elegantly: the overall explanation of the genetic archetypes, secondary characters, and Noah.
The primary explanation behind Mara Dyer’s mysterious powers feels a bit like a conspiracy, one which appears so thoroughly in this book that there isn’t particularly any doubt. We fully understand by the end of the book both what’s been going on – although certain aspects could use a little more light – and how it’s evolved throughout history. Honestly, because Michelle Hodkin is so talented with suspense and enigma, I thought it would have been more effective if she had kept certain things shrouded in uncertainty. That uncertainty is what made readers (at least, me) latch onto Mara Dyer as a story.
The secondary characters aren’t particularly present at all. The characters present in the second book are quickly dealt with in the first quarter of the story, with a jolted narrative. Some disappear, with no explanation. Others – like Joseph, whom I’m shockingly affectionate towards – are barely mentioned in a way that doesn’t particularly give me closure.
Noah doesn’t pop up much at all in this book, which is a bit surprising considering it’s a series finale and that their romance was such a keystone element at the center of the first two books. I found myself missing the effortless banter, and curious as to why Mara’s love for Noah wasn’t all-consuming. If she had been in the mental state she had in the second book, she probably would have been pining much more for him than she was in the third; however, her icy demeanor in the third book was unsettling, and I found myself wondering why she wasn’t obsessing over Noah as often as she was worrying about obscure aspects of her current situation. The only issues I really had with The Retribution of Mara Dyer were ones that are more reminiscent of second-book syndrome i.e. absent love interest, too much of a conspiracy feel to the explanations.
I thought part of the book – particularly scenes of research and discovery – got a bit crammed with logic, which detracted from the evocative mood that the trilogy is most famous for. I would have liked to see a little less of the behind-the-scenes and more of a big reveal at the end, rather than the scattered small discoveries we make throughout the narrative that lead us more to the end. This one, out of all of the series, reads more like a dystopian or a sci-fi thriller due to the structure of its reveals rather than the dark paranormal that the first one was. It feels like an entirely different genre, but still twisted in a way that connects it all together.
I’m not picking apart the book because I didn’t enjoy it. Rather the opposite. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this one because I loved it so much, because it’s a series that’s rooted itself underneath my skin and in my thoughts throughout the past few weeks while I’ve gathered the courage to finally read the finale. It’s smart and gritty and gorgeous. The language has the same ethereal quality and punch that Hodkin is so skilled in, with an exceptional sense of pacing. The ending is well-executed with a circular feel that’s satisfactory. And I don’t really mind any slow pacing or muddled explanation as long as the author makes me emotionally invested, which is what Hodkin’s done with the trilogy.
The book is flawed, but engrossing. It will leave you shaken up. It will leave you doubting the morality – and the justice – of what the characters do and wondering what to think of yourself when you love them anyways. It will leave you on the edge of your seat, half-doubting what you just read and half-luxuriating in the effortless language, and it will leave you rooting for the characters and the story in agony.
I think it’s definitely necessary to read, and I’m glad that I did. Because of the alterations in the characters and the methods by which Michelle Hodkin ties up the story, I can understand readers not enjoying it as much as the rest of the series, but I think it’s worth the read. It’s lush, and dark, and passionate in a frenzied way. It takes every part of the series you love and hate, and amplifies all of it just enough to make you wonder whether you’re going crazy instead of Mara Dyer.