‘Til The World Ends by Julie Kagawa, Ann Aguirre, and Karen Duvall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial thoughts: Of all the stories in this compilation, I think Ann Aguirre’s “Thistle and Thorn” impressed me the most, followed by Kagawa’s “Blood of Eden” (which was good but I had some qualms about it), then Karen Duvall’s “Sun Storm” (which I didn’t really care for that much).
I thought “Til’ the World Ends” was a decent collection of dystopian realmed stories that focus on romance and harrowing action. The stories themselves had variant quality and I’ll reflect on my reactions to the individual novellas below. If I were rating this collection on an overarching note, it would be around 3.5 stars.
“Blood of Eden” by Julie Kagawa
I feel absolutely terrible for reading this prequel story before “The Immortal Rules”, because looking back on it – Holy spoilerific Batman. I went into this story blind, and for what its worth, this novella can be read on its own without any prior knowledge of the realm of “Immortal Rules”. However, there are so many things you are likely to miss that have significant weight in the story if you don’t read “Immortal Rules” beforehand, though it doesn’t feature all of the same character. Kylie is a young doctor focused on working towards treating patients with the rampant Red Lung virus. She feels ill at ease with all the blood and losses that occur around her, but something interesting happens when a guy around her age named Ben Archer brings in a friend who needs treatment…and then becomes something that neither of them expect.
Pretty much this is the equivalent of featuring vampire zombies within an apocalyptic scenario. The vampire beings in here are called “Rabids” and pretty much turn anything they bite and kill into one of their own. It is not a pretty scenario. For what it’s worth, I liked Kylie and Ben both, and the story does start on an intriguing note with the expansions on the virus, the world, and the overarching scenario. But I felt a little at odds with the subsequent romance. I wasn’t expecting the sexy times scene in the shed while Rabids were pounding on their door. It was steamy, don’t get me wrong, just…a little awkward in transition in a story I expected to be more horrifying. And there’s a bit of roughness even toward the end as some events with Ben’s family are occurring (though the action scenes and heartbreaking revelation in that part of the novel were decent as well). There’s a familiar character here that I’m not going to spoil from “Immortal Rules”, but it gives the latter story much more clarity to consider it with “Dawn of Eden”.
I would give this respective story 3 out of 5 stars.
Thistle and Thorn by Ann Aguirre
Definitely my favorite novella out of the three. The chemistry between Thistle and Thorn (as well as the sexual tension) was by far the best in this particular compilation, as was the respective stakes in the given story. Thistle is a thief who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets some unexpected help.
Thistle meets Thorn. Thorn is probably about as cocky as you could think, but the trade off between Thorn’s confidence and Thistle’s witty remarks kept their banter highly entertaining between some dangerous scenarios in a corrupted world. While I would’ve liked to see a little more of the world developed here, I thought it was a well written story that stood on its own rather notably. It kept me entertained, in good humor, and engaged to the very end. I don’t know if it ties into any of Aguirre’s other work, but I’ll admit I was intrigued by it and I would read into the realm again.
I would give this 4 out of 5 stars.
Sun Storm by Karen Duvall
This was very much the weakest link in the collection. If it wasn’t the instalove between Sarah and Ian that turned me off, it was the rather odd worldbuilding, featuring the characters’ manipulation of the weather in an environment where the heat kills off those who stay in it too long. Save the world, get the hook-up, not much to say to what happened here. I couldn’t connect to the characters, unfortunately – they annoyed me more often than not. Much less the haphazard way the foundations of the world were built upon – they were shaky at best. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing what else Karen Duvall writes, but I didn’t care for this particular story.
I would give this story 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Overall, I would recommend this collection for those who like brief reads within the dystopian realm. It was a good collection and I liked reading it, though it had some uneven spots in points.
Overall score: 3.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin MIRA.