Book Review: Crucible Zero

As a rule, I try to avoid time travel stories. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great mechanic, but there are so many variables. I can’t keep up with them and get very confused about how things work. But I’m a fan of Devon Monk‘s work and when she brought in a time travel element for Crucible Zero, book three in the House Immortal series, l went with it. And am so glad that I did! I first fell in love with Monk’s writing after reading her Broken Magic books, and she’s continued her distinctive style of rich world building, exciting plots, and kick-ass characters throughout this dystopian future setting. Note, since this is the third book in the series, there will be a spoiler warning. For now, be sure to pick up the first two books in the series. They’re not very long, but holy smokes are they awesome! You’ve never read anything like them and all sci-fi urban fantasy fans are sure to enjoy them. Spoilers start now.

The national bestselling author of Infinity Bell returns to her “fresh and unique” world where the truce between the ruling Houses has shattered and chaos now reigns. Only one woman has the power to save the world—but she could also destroy it…

Matilda Case never thought of herself as a hero. But because she is galvanized—and nearly immortal in her stitched, endlessly healing body—she doesn’t have much of a choice. Even if she doesn’t want to save the world, she’s the only one capable of traveling in time to do so.

But her rescue attempt hasn’t gone as planned. She’s stuck in an alternate universe, and her world is in danger of disappearing. Worst of all, an unfathomably powerful man who can also travel through history doesn’t want her to put things to rights. He’s willing to wage bloody war to stop Matilda, unless she surrenders control of time to him.

Now, with the minutes ticking, Matilda must make impossible decisions, knowing that one wrong choice will destroy her—and any chance of saving everything she loves…

***

The story continues from the wild twist at the end of the second book, where Matilda found herself in an alternate reality where everything she knew has been flipped on its head––even her name. From there, she has to begin working to save this new world of hers, but it’s not going to be easy when she keeps getting pulled into the alternate timeline, where she has lost everything and everyone she loves.

Monk is excellent at raising the stakes and the despair, and gave me a couple mini heart attacks by the end of the story. She’s also exceptional at creating complex problems for her characters, balancing each event and rounding it out in a suspenseful, thrilling way. I was genuinely always surprised and eager for Matilda, Abraham, Neds, and Quentin to confront their new problems and find ways to solve them. Things didn’t always go as planned, but it wouldn’t have been such a fun story if they had!

The world building is stellar. I loved this take on the Frankenstein mythos, which I’m not usually into. The best part was that Matilda wasn’t a “chosen one.” She was made by accident, and those actions led her on a crazy adventure. The futuristic world building with the Houses and their representations was also very unique and believable, and I really enjoyed how their priorities were altered in this novel.

But of course, it was the characters who stole the show. I love Neds and his literal dual personality and some of the secrets were learned about his past, Quentin’s adamant determination to protect Matilda, Foster and his quiet strength (so glad we learned more about him!), Abraham for being his sexy, loyal, self, and of course, Matilda for being a strong woman prepared to do everything she can to save her friends, family, and loved ones. There were also some cameos from past novels which I genuinely appreciated and was happy to experience.

The novel had many heartfelt moments and tension that had me re-reading parts of the novel and going, “wait, did that really just happen?!” It was an absolute joy to read, and definitely worth waiting almost four years to read it. If you like uncomplicated time travel stories, rich characters and fantastic worlds, this is definitely a novel you need to buy and enjoy.

Amy

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