Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: Cainsville, Book 5
Genres: Adult, Thriller, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Fiction, Supernatural, Romance
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
“I shot her.”
His lips twitched. “You…”
“She pissed me off.”
He choked on a laugh. “I see.”
“She really pissed me off.” (Ch. 3)
I must admit, this was a satisfying conclusion to a series I’ve grown quite fond of. It doesn’t tie up every loose end which leaves this world feeling just as organic as it did at the beginning. Personally, I’m not a fan of stories that end with a pretty little bow, with everything solved and no thoughts of “what now?”. Instead, these imperfect characters need to find a way to continue on with their lives and the choices they’ve made.
Armstrong also does a great job at introducing just the right amount of “new” into Rituals. Being the fifth and final book in a series, it can sometimes feel like too much is getting thrown at you too fast. Thankfully, Armstrong avoided this feeling altogether. She managed to tie in the new with the rest of the series, expanding on moments that the reader doesn’t necessarily realize were important all along.
As with the rest of this series, my favourite part of this book was how the characters worked together in order to solve the mystery. Olivia, Gabriel, and Ricky have been through a lot in the months that they’ve know each other so it was nice to see them still being able to put their trust in each other. I know it was hard for all three of them at times, but they pushed through and managed to show everyone that they’re better together than apart.
If you’re looking for a mystery series with a heavy dose of the fantastical, I’d highly recommend giving this series a try – starting with Omens (review here). This series can be highly suspenseful at times and take twists and turns that managed to keep me on the edge of my seat. If Armstrong wasn’t already one of my favourite authors, she’d be well on her way to becoming one after this series.
Before getting into the specifics of this book itself, I’d like to talk about the progression of the relationship between Olivia and Gabriel. She started out thinking he was a hired thug and had a pretty low opinion of him that he worked hard to raise up. Heck, their relationship started with each of them trying to out play the other in order to get the most out of their interactions, trying to use the other to get the best possible outcome with the least possible commitment on their part. Gabriel expected Olivia to play go between for him with her birth mother so that he could get the money that she owed him and refused to pay. Olivia wanted Gabriel to convince her of the Larsens’ guilt so that she wouldn’t feel guilty about forgetting about them in the first place.
While there were hints sprinkled throughout the series about how they felt for each other – and to me it was obvious that they were the end game relationship despite Ricky being an amazing guy – at times it felt like they were going to be too obtuse about how the other felt in order for anything to happen there. Thankfully Olivia decided to risk it all and tell Gabriel how she really felt about him, that she really was kissing him in that storm drain even though she thought she was just dreaming because there was no way that Gabriel would actually feel that way about her. It allowed Gabriel to actually try with her (because while he was making moves to HIM in his microscopic way, SHE didn’t realize that he was even making a play).
Of course I felt bad for Ricky, walking into Olivia’s house to see the aftermath of Olivia and Gabriel’s first night together all over the floor, but both Gabriel and Olivia had tried to stop him from seeing the sight. Not well enough, mind you, but at least they tried to spare his feelings. And Gabriel tried to do the right thing and pull Ricky aside to talk to him about what had happened, he just didn’t succeed. Ricky proved once again that he really is an amazing person, by pushing aside his hurt feelings in order to help Olivia and Gabriel deal with the situation they managed to get themselves into. Again.
Now that the relationship stuff is out of the way, I’d like to touch on the sluagh itself (herself?). This is a terrifying creature! While I loved the way that the sluagh was tied into the rest of the series – being the one that set into motion everything that’s happened in Olivia’s life – she was downright terrifying in her single minded determination to screw over the Cŵn Annwn and the Twyleth Teg. She’s the one that convinced the Larsens to actually get things going. She’s the one that convinced Ioan to make a deal with her in order to heal Olivia’s spina bifida. Hell, she’s the one that corrupted Seanna in order to great Gabriel in the first place. And all this so that neither side would be able to get this reincarnated Matilda on their side. I’m so glad it didn’t work out for her and her scary strong powers.
I don’t have to say that it wasn’t as cut and dry as that, but I will. I think it’s disgusting what the sluagh put Llorgan and her pack through. The poor hound didn’t deserve to be psychologically tortured that way – though I am glad that she survived both attacks from the sluagh. And that she managed to find a loving pack in Ricky and Ioan’s huntsmen. While I’m heartbroken that she lost her original pack, and that that twisted “huntsman” abused her for years, I’m glad that she was able to find a place where she was accepted and showered with love.
Jumping ahead to the final battle with the sluagh, it was interesting to see the ways in which she tried pitting Olivia, Gabriel, and Ricky against each other. Thanks to the hellstorm that they’d all been through already and survived together, they were able to get through everything without breaking. Those three might just be the strongest friends imaginable in order to overcome everything the way that they did. I’m also not surprised that Ida was willing to sacrifice herself in order to protect Olivia and Cainsville’s chance to survive in the modern age. Nor am I surprised that her final words were a plea to Olivia to choose the Twyleth Teg. There’s a reason that Ida pissed me off sometimes – her single minded determination to act as Cainsville’s elder and protect her own – but in this instance, I admired her for it.
What I was surprised by was the fact that Walter was working with (for) the sluagh all along. I really did think that he was a pushover that was happy to just follow Ida’s words, to not push against her influence because it would be too inconvenient for him to start fights about things. To find out that he was a pawn by the sluagh the whole time – and that the sluagh got rid of him as soon as he was no longer useful – was probably one of the biggest twists in this series that I didn’t see coming in the slightest. Coincidentally, it might just be my favourite twist that occurred.
I have to admit, Helia and Alexios grew on me throughout this story. While at first they seemed pretty flighty and prone to run off should things take a dark turn as they’re wont to do in this series, they tirelessly worked against my assumptions and showed how great they actually were. I feared for Helia when she was attacked by the sluagh and overjoyed when she showed up beaten and worse for wear, but alive.
Helia’s favor was a bitter sweet moment for me. While she’d said many times in this novel that she was nearing the end of her life, I was still sad to see her go. I’m glad that it was on her terms, though, in a place that she was happy to rest forever. And, of course, Alexios couldn’t let her spend the rest of her forever alone. These two strong and brave creatures will forever be treasured as those interwoven linden trees in Olivia’s backyard. I’ve yet to meet two braver dryads.
While the series may be over, that’s not the end of the stories in this world. Thankfully, others loved the Cainsville series just as much as I have and Armstrong had written other stories in this world around the characters that made it the masterpiece it is. You’d better believe I’m going to be reading the companion novels before too long.
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