If you’ve been following my reviews for the past couple of years, you may have noticed that I have had some rather mixed feelings about The Expanse series. I’m in way too deep to turn back now though, so here we go with book eight, published in March 2019.
The story picks up several years after the end of the previous novel and deals with the aftermath of its events. The action focuses specifically upon the fledgling resistance to Laconian conquest, James Holden’s imprisonment, and High Consul Duarte’s continued experiments with protomolecule technology despite increasingly severe push back from some unknown force. These stories unfold from the perspective of old friends Elvi Okoye, Naomi, Alex, Bobbi, and Holden along with newcomer Teresa Duarte, daughter of the Laconia colony’s ruthless ruler.
Wow, now this was the book I’ve been waiting for! Here is where the series finally steps up to its potential and delivers a huge payoff for the reader following all the starts and stops I’ve written about in the past. No longer held captive by the often frustrating whims of James Holden, this intriguing universe has now fully opened up to stories on many fronts, each headed by a character we’ve come to know and care about.
It was for precisely these reasons that this installment hit all the right notes for me and avoided many of my previous criticisms. The story was excellent and advanced both the galactic politics and protomolecule arcs to some really interesting place while simultaneously providing plenty of action, intrigue, and philosophical quandaries. That it also at long last starred a full cast of characters you could actually care about (Holden included), made this read even sweeter. The former Roci crew really do feel like old friends at this point, Elvi remained fantastic, and the addition of Teresa offered a very interesting perspective on the enemy camp. Not to give away too much, but when certain prominent characters die each hurt in a way I don’t think would have been possible in the previous books. My only complaint here is that I wish the authors more slowly revealed a certain character’s true identity. I knew immediately who it was and I think the impact of their death would have been even greater if they kept us guessing until closer to the end.
At this point I am now pretty excited about the upcoming finale, even though I am a bit worried that it will have a lot to wrap up in a relatively short amount of space. Shortly after finishing the book I came across another post in which the reviewer mentioned that reading the novellas associated with this series made the read even better and for the first time in eight books I am tempted to do so. If you were like me and on the fence about whether or not to continue this series, my answer to you now is to do so. This story was totally worth getting through the occasional disappointing read for.