The Pearl of the Soul of the World by Meredith Ann Pierce: A

From the back cover:
All the world’s wisdom and magic reside within the iridescent depths of a small white pearl. “All my sorcery,” the Ancient Ravenna had said to Aeriel. “It is left to you to save the world.” But is the pearl powerful enough to enable Aeriel to defeat the White Witch? Aeriel’s people have assembled an army and are soon to attack the Witch and her darkangel sons. But their cause is hopeless unless Aeriel can unravel the riddle of Ravenna and unlock the mysteries of the pearl—and of her own destiny.

Rather than starting precisely where the second book left off, this concluding volume of the trilogy picks up some time after, where some mysterious circumstances have befallen Aeriel. She’s quickly discovered by some duarough, a race that lives underground, and so there aren’t long, dull passages where she’s traveling around by herself, which were the bane of book two. Eventually, around page 60 or so, some of the blanks as to what have happened in the meantime start to get filled in, and we find that there was a bit of wandering, but it was summed up in a single sentence. That makes me wonder whether there was some criticism similar to mine after the second book was released, and the author took steps to avert a similar slow start. Whatever the case, I found it immediately easy to get into this volume and the momentum carries through to the end without lulls.

I like the depiction and development of Aeriel’s romantic situation very much. Her feelings seem to make more IC sense now than previously, and I like how there aren’t easy fixes to things.

There’s a little more annoying inconsistency in this one, like some lines of the prophetic rhyme in book two being changed when sung by a couple of different characters with no IC reaction from Aeriel as to this not being correct. And the witch was stealing water? I remember that a river wasn’t at its full glory back in book one, but not much was made about the witch’s big evilness being that she was stealing the water until this last book. Before it was just that she was responsible for creating the darkangels. Oh yeah, and there was hardly any Roshka! These things almost earned the book an A- instead.

The ending, however, is great. That’s all I’m going to say, there, but it’s what brought the score up to a full-fledged A. There’s really some scope there about seeing how far these characters have come since the beginning, although I do wish some of the secondary characters could’ve been fleshed out a lot more.

Ultimately, this trilogy is recommended, though I’m not sure whether I will be buying my own set (I’ve had them out from the library) as I don’t know whether there’s quite enough here to merit a reread. This author has another YA series about unicorns, but I am not really feeling the urge to go investigate it at this point.

A Gathering of Gargoyles by Meredith Ann Pierce: B+

From the back of the book, with edits for spoilers:
Aeriel may’ve done something interesting in book one, but the Witch is far from defeated! Her evil vampyre sons continue to blight the lands, defeating even the warders created by the Old Ones to protect them. There is but a single hope for the Witch’s defeat—solving an ancient, mysterious riddle.

So, Aeriel sets off to solve the riddle, sailing across a sea of dust and straight into the worst of the Witch’s terrors. But if Aeriel is to save the world, she will have to overcome the Witch’s darkangel sons and ultimately confront their terrifying mother face-to-face.

My enjoyment of this book was stymied by a few annoying things right off the bat. First, in the first book in this series, there wasn’t any mention of people with weird-colored skin. I’d swear, although I don’t have the first book to consult, that Aeriel was described as having a tan/rose complexion before the sun bleached her more fair. Now, they say she’s white, but it’s clear she was once mauve. And there’s all these blue and green skinned people and stuff.

Secondly, there’s the revisiting of scenes from book one and suddenly including some conversation that we never saw before, or a tidbit like, “Oh yeah, she gave those things names.” It makes it seem like the author wasn’t planning ahead. I would’ve preferred to have seen those conversations within the context of the scenes as they were taking place, then one could reflect back later and go ‘Ahh, I see’. I know this is YA, but c’mon. J. K. Rowling does it just fine!

Thirdly, after a bit of an angsty beginning, Aeriel goes off alone. This part is so dull, just a description of the landscape she’s passing through. At least the concept of time was more clearly portrayed this time.

It took me ages just to get to page 100. After this point, however, she gets some companions and the story picks up and its enjoyment value greatly improves. The annoying elements were primarily confined to the beginning of the book, and I eventually managed to stop being irked about the skin color thing. I read from page 100 to the end (333) in a day.

The overall plot is pretty predictable. I mean, obviously, she’s gathering gargoyles from the title, but their significance is incredibly obvious. It’s a little much to believe that while Aeriel acquires them she is ignorant of this. Still, I look forward to seeing more of certain characters in book three, and now that I’m two-thirds through the series it’d just be dumb to drop it now.

The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce: B+

From the back cover:
Aeriel is kidnapped by the Darkangel, swept up into his dozen black wings and carried to his distant keep. There she is to serve his brides—thirteen pitiful creatures who were once beautiful, before the Darkangel drained away their souls. Aeriel would free them, but now that she, too, is one of the Darkangel’s captives, she can do no other than obey—even while she knows she must destroy him.

For when he has found his final bride, he will come fully into his sinister powers. Aeriel must kill him first, even though deep within him is a spark of goodness that makes her love him—a spark that could redeem even his evil.

I realize now that I never actually read the back of the book before starting this. It sure makes Aeriel seem kind of… flighty. Oopsie, got kidnapped, now I take orders and swoon over Mr. Tall, Winged, and Evil. This really does her a disservice.

The beginning of the book was good and moved quickly, though in the middle section things dragged a little bit for me. Thankfully, the action picked up again at the end and events moved swiftly on to their conclusion. There were a few plot elements that were sort of obvious to me, but which might not have been so for a YA reader. They were resolved satisfactorily for the most part, though perhaps with a little too much convenient magic at hand. One further quibble is that I never really got a handle on the terms used for the passage of time, so I could never be quite sure how long things were taking, which was pretty annoying.

I’ve got the other two in the trilogy courtesy of my local library, so will be launching into them forthwith. I’ll have to think of my own description for the next one, because the back of it is super spoilery for The Darkangel.