Book Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up


511-hbczuwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Title: Take the Key and Lock Her Up

Series: Embassy Row #3

Author: Ally Carter

See my reviews of Book 1 & Book 2

I’ve long been an Ally Carter fan, but I struggled more with this trilogy than any of her other books. As I documented in my previous reviews, I think that had a lot to do with growing out of her target age range.

Thankfully, Take the Key and Lock Her Up was a really good conclusion to the trilogy.

NOTE: Spoilers for the first two books will start immediately. Read at your own risk. Please keep the comments a safe section. I’m available via Twitter or email for spoilery discussions.

Plot Summary

Grace Blakely just discovered that she is the descendant of a long-lost princess. Now she, her brother, a hot Russian, and the Scarred Man are on the run. People are trying to kill her and she doesn’t know who to trust. Also, she might be crazy.

Cons

(Cons go first because I like to end on a positive note.)

This book is nonstop action and plot twists. I don’t read lots of political thriller fiction, so I struggled with the breathless rush to the end. Also, I quickly grew tired of not having all the information—even when Grace knew what was going on the author/narrator deliberately held back. I chafed at those artificial constraints, but eventually fell back into the world and noticed them less.

I might discuss more in another post, but the craziness/mental health aspect of the books didn’t have the depth or sensitivity of approach that I might have wanted. Think of it more like Katniss-style trauma-induced breakdown more than recognized mental illness. I still liked the fact that Carter introduced that darkness and confusion, but if you’re looking to learn a lot about certain conditions, this trilogy isn’t the place.

Pros

Ally Carter knows how to wrap up a series. This is an incredibly satisfying conclusion to her trilogy. In a world (real and fictional) full of darkness and confusion and fear, Carter creates humor and joy and trust. Some people find her books too tame because of that, but I find that her joy brings me hope when I don’t want fiction that reflects the hopelessness of real life.

The family/chosen family ties in this series are strong. Grace may feel like she’s on her own, but really, her support system never fails. Family is another factor that’s often underplayed, especially in YA, but strong/close families do still exist, so I’m glad to see that represented.

I know I represented the craziness aspect in the cons, but it’s a positive element too. Carter’s heroines are unfailingly weak even when they’re awesome. Seeing girls realistically cope (or not cope) with really traumatic events is rare and extremely important. Grace’s purported craziness has always been my favorite aspect of the trilogy.

Also, the romance in this book is ON POINT. I don’t want to say much and it’s only a minor element of my enjoyment of the story, but it’s good. The plot is never overshadowed by the romance though, which is a huge gold star in my opinion.

Conclusion

Ally Carter has wrapped another great series. If you’ve been reading the trilogy, this book is a good conclusion to it. If you haven’t read any of the books, I recommend starting from the beginning. The series lacks a lot of the explicit sex or language that might alienate more conservative YA readers, but also deals with really dark themes of violence, political intrigue, and mental health. I highly recommend for any readers who like mystery, intrigue, YA, or just a good story.

 

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