Catalyst by S.J. Kincaid
The Insignia Trilogy was very good, and actually through the first two books I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them. This was just supposed to be a fun, easy popcorn read for kids. I never expected that by the end of the third book it would become great.
If you read my review of Vortex, book 2 in the Insignia Trilogy, you read how I felt like the books had become nothing more than another YA Dysto series—a fantastically well done YA Dysto series, but it fit the mold just the same. Now that I’ve finished Catalyst, I’ve got one thing to say regarding that review: Never mind.
I love being surprised in books, and Catalyst surprised me most pleasantly. I think it best to let those interested experience it for themselves, so I I’ll leave out the details, except to say that the story that begins simply in Insignia then blasts off in Vortex comes to a completely unexpected, powerful, dramatic, and most importantly (for me) happy end with Catalyst. And I don’t just mean the ending of the last book was good. I mean the whole book was fantastic. I was completely blindsided by the direction the story took, growth of the characters, the maturity with the way the conflicts were resolved, and the highs and lows of emotions the story dragged me through. Seriously–this feels blasphemous to say, maybe I’ll edit it out later–I don’t remember feeling quite so satisfied with an ending since Harry.
All the things I loved best about the first two books are still present in the third. The teenagers act their age and their relationships are age appropriate (I’m looking at you Divergent. Barf.). The writing is sharp, witty, and often laugh-out-loud funny. The conflicts are appropriately resolved. The characters are well written and endearing. There is no bad language. The characters have aged from 13 to 18 over the course of the three books, and their boy/girl relationships have matured along with them. There are some hints in the third book about a progression of the physical parts of their relationships, but it’s never part of the story or given more than a passing reference. The violence gets a bit more real in book three as the stakes get higher. There are some timely and thoughtful lessons on the role of government and the power of the people to govern themselves. Really, really great stuff.
For the benefit of those of you who are particular about stuff like this…the science fiction in all three books leans more heavily toward the fiction than it does to the science. If that’s going to bother you, I hope you’ll still give the books a try. But maybe just go into with eyes wide open. These books are often explained as a cross between Enders Game and Harry Potter, but I’d say it’s more Harry-ish than Ender-ish when it comes to the reality of the science.
I’m moving this one up the priority list of what I’ll be recommending to my kids. Appropriate for mature 11 year olds, but in general boys and girls 13 and up and fun loving adults could enjoy the Insignia Trilogy.
Now go read something awesome!