Starling by Fiona Paul.
Secrets of the Eternal Rose #3.
Published: March 20, 2014.
Published by: Philomel.
Source: Requested an ARC from Paper Lantern Lit in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, PLL!
The dark, seductive conclusion to the thrilling Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy!
In the final book in the trilogy, Cass and Luca are back in Venice trying to find the Book of the Eternal Rose to clear Luca's name and keep them both out of prison. But the hunters become the hunted when the Order of the Eternal Rose figures out their plan. Filled with twists and turns, danger and torrid romances, this novel brings the Secrets of the Eternal Rose novels to a thrilling, heart-pounding, sexy conclusion.
This is a series that I have adored from the very beginning, so to say I had high hopes going into Starling would be extremely accurate. However, I don't think I could have asked for a better ending to this trilogy. I really don't. Starling was everything I wanted for Cass and for this story and I am left feeling so satisfied with this final installment.
The plot of Starling was an excellent balance of wrapping up the mystery and exciting storyline that has run through the series as well as bringing the love triangle to a believable and well-executed conclusion. The early parts of the novel recap from Belladonna well without being a long, drawn out bore of an infodump. There are tidbits thrown in to help readers remember what happened but not so much that it became tired. Of course, the central plot line surrounding the secret society of sorts and the mystery of the Eternal Rose is brought to its ultimate climax here and I very much enjoyed it. There were elements I was hoping for that panned out and there was much I didn't expect that made this an exciting and often tense and somewhat nerve wracking finale. It fit very well with the events and the atmosphere that the series has established thus far and was, ultimately, a wonderful ending.
As much as I love the boys of the series, Falco and Luca, this book was about Cass and I was so appreciative of that. Cass has been on such a wild ride throughout this series but she never once gives up. Her determination and her bravery are as evident and admirable as ever. It's not as though she has been through a complete transformation - she is still the Cass I enjoyed reading about from the beginning. She is still very smart. She is also still very impulsive and brave to the point of recklessness. But she has shown a wonderful emotional growth over the course of the series - especially in growing more confident in herself, what she can accomplish, and what she wants - and I adore the arc her character has taken.
Another thing I absolutely LOVED about Starling is the way the love triangle was resolved. This was a very well done triangle from the beginning: the boys were drastically different people but they both offered something to Cass that made them a worthy choice. Both offer romance and the chance for real love (by the end of Belladonna, at least), but Luca offers her stability and a quiet life while Falco offers a more exciting but dangerous one. They are both viable choices for Cass but Paul has made it how I truly hoped it would be: the resolution to the triangle is truly about what Cass wants and needs for her life. It is about what it best for her and for the kind of person she has grown to become by the end of the series. That, in my opinion, is exactly how the series should have ended. It also does both boys justice, which I was very appreciative of. There are so many ways to cop out of a triangle. Paul proves that there's also a way to resolve them completely in a way that is true to the characters.
Overall, I am leaving this series with nothing but a happy heart and having had a great experience with the books. Thank you, Fiona Paul, for such an exciting and interesting story, characters that I feel I know and love, and an ending that left me with nothing but adoration.