Promised by Caragh M. O’Brien is the final book in the Birthmarked Trilogy, but unfortunately it’s not the strongest. I have every sympathy with authors who have to wrap up a series, but I couldn’t help wishing for more of the elements that made the first two books a good read.
Gaia Stone has led the people of Sylum back to the Enclave. Although she has warned her people that it will be difficult, she herself had underestimated the Protectorate’s reaction to her return. After all, this is the same man who is responsible for the deaths of her parents as well as her own imprisonment and her flight from the Enclave in the first place, did she really think she could walk back in an negotiate with such a man? Even as the new Martrarc that seems far-fetched.
One of the other weaknesses is the lack of development regarding her personal relationships. While the Chardo brothers, Peter and Will, played such a huge role in the second book, they remain far on the periphery in this one. I think readers who developed opinions and loyalty to these characters previously, will be disappointed. While this may be a deliberate tactic O’Brien is employing to focus on just Leon, it was the very complications that ensued from her feelings for each of the brothers that rang truer than her sudden complete attention on Leon. There is also a lack of development of two new characters who have strong ties to Gaia. Most of the story either revolves around Gaia’s conundrum as she feels her way through this situation as an inexperienced leader of her people, or the action and violence scenes.
Also, considering the technology and surveillance the Enclave has at it’s disposal compared to the Wharfton area, it seems unrealistic that the protagonists can keep getting inside the Enclave and escaping back into Wharfton.
When the climax of the story comes, it feels rushed compared to all the previous chapters which stretched on too long. Significant events and the effects on some of the characters are only mentioned in a perfunctory way; I am deliberately not getting specific for those who have not finished the series yet. In The Hunger Games series Katniss and Peter both experienced violence and physical and emotional trauma and loss, and I think it was more realistically and better explored than the last chapter of this story.