What’s this a second review in one day? Yep, and this time I am delighted to be reviewing Bonds of Chaos by Zack Argyle, the final book in the Threadlight series. And what a way to bring this wonderful series to a close, and I still have so many thoughts and feelings over this book, and I will admit I rambled in this review – because there is so much to love.
You can read my reviews for the previous books here: Voice of War | Stones of Light
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
TO BREAK THE BONDS, THERE WILL BE SACRIFICES
When all was lost, the Heralds returned, and the world embraced them as gods and saviors. But there are some who know the truth: the Heralds are not what they seem.
Now, in a desperate attempt to stop them, Chrys and the others travel to Cynosure with hopes of enlisting the only Amber threadweaver with the power to help.
Chrys, Laurel, Alverax, and those they love.
Together, they will stop the gods…or they will die trying.
‘But sometimes life does not give the most to the deserving. Sometimes, life takes, and it takes until the once-filled well runs dry. Sometimes, it is cruelest to the kindest and coldest to those already bitten by the frost. It is brutal, callous, and most of all, unfair. And so, it becomes the work of men to bring balance. To fill the empty wells. To warm the shivering shoulders. To sacrifice for the greater good.’
OH. MY. HEART.
I was not prepared for this book, and in fact I have started and restarted this review so many times, because it has made me think and feel so many things, and even now I’m not sure I can come close to capturing that. The end of a series is always somewhat bittersweet, because you want to see how the story ends, to enjoy the payoff for the arcs and threads that have led to this point. Yet at the same time it is a looming farewell to a world and its characters that you’ve spent so much time with. Threadlight is one of those series that makes that harder, because Argyle has done such a fantastic job of pulling you into the world, hooking you into the story and making you so invested in the characters that each book has felt like reuniting with old friends. And Bonds of Chaos has taken all of that to the next level, and it feels like Argyle has gone all out in this concluding part and it works – it hurts, it devastates on so many levels – and yet at the same time, THIS IS HOW YOU END A SERIES.
After the events in Stones of Light, this book was always going to start on a knife-edge. Our main characters are together again, but everything is splintering around them with the rise of the Heralds, and the ongoing threat to Aydin. As might therefore be expected, Bonds of Chaos hits the ground running as we re-join the story just after those events (and I must do a shoutout to the author for the story so far sections, although I enjoyed the excuse for a reread before diving into this one). The threat is immediately real and present, but so are the consequences from the events that have transpired previously, which means right from the beginning we get to enjoy the delight that is Argyle’s character work and the emotional depth that permeates every aspect of this book.
“A friend once told me that people are like trees. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter how many broken branches you have, or how many leaves you’ve lost. If a tree is standing, it’s no less whole than the trees beside it.”
I adore stories where we see consequences of previous events play out, not just in the world, but on a personal level in the characters; and given Argyle’s skill for creating wonderfully real and grounded characters, it’s not surprising to see it here. But the impact it had on me as a reader, but also the story
Seeing Alverax retreat under the weight of his grief and guilt about Jisenna, to his anger at finding his father alive, was a perfect way to combine all these elements and to give the story weight from the beginning. And again, it is that realism that is such a strong part of the characterisation in this series, because it would have been easy to have the reunion ease the tension, to focus on the joy of finding his father. But, it would have undermined so much about the character, about the state of the world – and for me, it set the tone of this book beautifully from page one. And it was also a chance to breathe, to catch up with all the characters, to see them come together and where they were now – and I loved seeing them rallying not just around Alverax, but around one another, and Laurel really shone for me here too.
It was also a demonstration that even among the heavier consequences, there were human moments of growth and connection, and understanding and hope, which is something that permeates the entire book.
‘There is nothing more dangerous than a measure of hope when the meal is war.’
Bonds of Chaos and indeed the series has such a depth of emotion and doesn’t hesitate to explore it; but it feels like this book delved deeper. In places, it felt almost philosophical in the questions that it asked, in the quandaries and choices that befell the characters, and that was incredibly fitting, because how else would people – regardless of who they are, react to events that threaten everything? What does hope mean in the face of a conflict that could destroy everything, and when the solution will come at great cost? What is the greater good and who gets to decide?
It also comes back to freewill – we’ve seen it through Crys and the Apogee, to those bound to the Heralds, through Laurel’s rebellion.
We also see the power of choice (and the choice to surrender power).
Whether that is choosing to fight or to surrender, or who to stand with or against. Or to sacrifice something more, even if you know that you won’t get to see the results.
These elements have been woven into this story since the beginning, and yet here in the Bonds of Chaos it feels like a spotlight has been shone on them. Forcing both the characters and the reader to ask those questions, and it adds such a raw, and powerful layer to the story and the events that unfold from each choice; and it’s a brilliant way to get the reader invested, because as you’re reading about what the characters are doing, about the turmoil behind their choices, the doubts, the cost they might pay, you can’t help but ask yourself what you would do in their place.
What would you be willing to pay.
This story was never going to resolve without a cost. Argyle has demonstrated that throughout and has given us stakes that range in scale from the personal, to an entire people, to the world. We had already seen people lose their home, losing loved ones, or parts of themselves – just look at the journey that Laurel has gone on throughout the previous two books. Yet, I was still caught by surprise – in the best way – by the choices that were made in this book, by the extent of the sacrifices that the characters and people were willing to make, and that notion of ‘the greater good’. And I think it works so well, because the time has been taken to invest us in this world, in the characters whether the main or secondary cast, and how each people has brought so much to the world and plot; because it feels like such a cohesive, living breathing world, and you can s
“He never wanted to live forever. He did it because he loved you both. He wanted to help you hold onto your humanity. I want you to know that he died helping us. Because in the end, Alchaeus saw what you had become, and it broke his heart.”
One of the main elements of this series has been a focus on family, whether by blood or marriage or choice, and all the messiness and pain and joy that comes with that. We’ve seen families torn apart by loss and war, and we’ve seen others come together in the shadow of those same events. It is one of the great equalisers throughout the entire story, because everyone from the Heralds, to the Wastelanders, to our main characters have family in some form – and those bonds, that weakness and strength plays into all of them. The diversity of these relationships is breath-taking, as is the way Argyle manages to capture the essence of each relationship, for example, he does such an amazing job of exploring parenthood in the series and this book. We have so many examples, from Willow and Crys, to the tentative, developing bond between Roshaw and Alverax that is scarred by the past, to Iriel and Crys fierce, desperate efforts to protect their son, and coming full circle to Luther and Emory; and each one is different, shaped by the people and the events, and reflecting those influences. In particular I loved seeing Roshaw and Alverax’s relationship as it unfolded in this book, from the almost total retreat of Alverax at the start, to Roshaw’s guilt for leaving and the reason behind it, and them having to heal that divide and come together; and the way it took time and wasn’t brushed over added so much to both their arcs.
Which leads me nicely to the fact that this was also a story about individuals, and I think one of the reasons why Bonds of Chaos will stay in my thoughts for so long is not the action and the crescendo of the world events (although that was epic, and breath-taking and had me reading until far too late), but because of the character work. These are people that we’ve walked a thousand miles with, and through Argyle’s fantastic characterisation and emotive work, we have seen so much of them, in their darkest and brightest moments. Each was incredibly well established and unique, with their own voices and flaws and strengths, and we’ve seen them grow and change, reflecting events and each other throughout the series. But, here in this final book, as everything else is threatened and sacrifices loomed, it felt as though each of our main characters was finding their own place in the world, in their own skin and in their family.
Each one coming into their own.
When I first started writing this review, I thought that I could say that some of the characters personified this more than the others, but I really don’t feel that is true. Argyle has poured so much care and life into each character, and we really see the culmination of that in this book. We see Chrys managing to separate himself from what the Apogee was and did, and reclaiming himself and his relationship with his family, particularly his wife. In some ways it felt like he was the character who had come full circle, this was the man we’d seen hints of at the beginning, and it felt very much like he’d come home – to himself, to his family, by the end of this book – and the way his arc ended was so fulfilling.
“It was as though she’d gained one title and lost all others. A mother, and nothing more.”
In a similar way Iriel’s arc especially in this book was about reclaiming herself, and I especially love how Argyle explored not just her character in this book, but also reconciling motherhood and wanting and needing to fight. It was such a believable and impactful conflict, and handled so well, and again it felt like in Bonds of Chaos, against the backdrop of a world on the edge we see her reconcile the weight of expectations and need, and who she wants to be, and we really get to see that in the ending and the epilogue.
‘His sacrifice was not to die but to live with the consequences of that day. He would live so the memory of their sacrifice would endure.’
I’ve touched on Alverax briefly already, and he was possibly one of the most interesting for me in this book. We’d seen the potential he’d had in Voice of War and seen him come into his own in Stones of Light’, and again it felt much like he found himself in this book. But, whereas Chrys and Iriel had been finding themselves and who they used to be, it felt like Alverax was discovering himself – not as the world and situation saw him, and needed him, but who he was, and all the parts that made him who he is. We see it in the wonderful reunion with his grandfather at the start of the book, and in the gradual rebuilding of a relationship with his father, but also with the choices he makes in Bonds of Chaos. It felt like he had his hand on the rudder of his own life in this book, rather than being a leaf in the storm, and as heart-breaking as elements of his storyline was, in many ways I found him the most compelling in this book.
Then there was Laurel…
‘Side by side with her companion, her friend, her second soul, she met the onslaught of smaller corespawn with more energy than she’d ever had before. She was a flaming wall. She was the hand of death. She was the alpha.’
Without a doubt, she is the character who has grown the most for me across the entire series, and I find her story arc even more interesting in retrospect and in light of the choice that was made about Threadweaving in this book. Her bond with Asher has always been one of my favourite relationships in this series, and again we saw that mature in this book, filling a void for each of them; and it added another element to the worldbuilding too as we saw her taking on aspects of the chromawolf, allowing them to work together and fight in new ways. It was an insight to the fact that Threadlight was not the only power in this world; and not the only thing that gave her life colour. The conclusion of her arc was oh so fitting and devasting, and that you can see how she came to this point and everything that she had learned, the wisdom that she brought to those around her was wonderful, and I was not ready for how her story concluded. And yet, again there is that element of consequence and lasting impact, and I think of all the characters, it is Laurel and Alverax that personify that right until the very end of this book.
Which leads me to why Bonds of Chaos is how you end a series like this. It has all the hallmarks that have made this series great from the beginning – the characterisation, the stakes and the worldbuilding, combined with Argyle’s skill for writing action and emotion; and it pushes it all to the next level. We see the worldbuilding expand, learn more about threadweaving – and I love the progression that is made in what can be achieved with different combinations of threadlight; we see the world and the cast expand. Argyle adds so much to the melting pot that is this series, and it gives that feeling of a world and story that is ever moving and living, even beyond what we can see in the moment. It could have become chaotic, instead what we get is a thrilling, breath-taking crescendo with twists and turns, including those you don’t see coming, that brings together all those elements that have brought us to this point. There isn’t a thread forgotten, and this is a conclusion that is so rich and satisfying in its payoff, not only for the story as a whole, or the individual characters, but for all the events that have happened previously across this world.
The epilogue was a beautiful capstone for this story. The ending was already perfect, and that last line of chapter 48 was everything I could have wanted for this book and for Crys; and yet the epilogue feels like the cherry on top. All the way through we’ve seen the consequences of choices and events, and so it feels incredibly fitting for that to be true here as well, and I think the reason that it works so well is that it’s not an unstained happily ever after.
‘Even though more than half a year had passed, Willow still saw glimpses of the dirty, frightened couple that had taken their child across the world to stop the gods.’
It shows that the world and the people are healing, that the future they fought so hard for and sacrificed so much for is beginning to unfold, but it also looks back at those sacrifices, at what was lost and acknowledges that and remembers it. It creates a sense of a story that continues even once the pages are closed, but also, cleverly – deviously – gives almost a sense of a living history as it looked back, and that last line, that last realisation was just perfect and jaw dropping, and had me sat there just trying to breath it in.
Threadlight is a series that has gone from strength to strength, and Bonds of Chaos has continued that trend and I honestly don’t feel that this series could have ended in any other way. I will forever be grateful that Threadlight crossed paths with me, because it has been a pleasure to follow its journey. It will also be a long time before my heart recovers from what Argyle did to it with Bonds of Chaos, and this will be a series and a book that I will revisit many times.
If you haven’t read these books yet, then what are you waiting for?
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.
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