Review: Lightbringer (Empirium #3) by Claire Legrand

Ask me if I’m ok. Go ahead, I dare you.

I’ve been sitting on my thoughts for this review for a few days now and I think I finally know what to say. In the moment, I awarded this final book in the Empirium trilogy 5 stars, something I rarely ever do, and to be honest I still stand by it. I always say that while I might not know how to explain why a book is worthy of 5 stars, but I’ll be able to feel it. And I felt it here. I do want to note that while I don’t think this book was absolutely perfect, and that’s specifically why it earned 5 stars from me, it was a conclusion that made the entire series worth it. And it made every character, every storyline, every POV matter in the end and the further I got in the book, the more I kept thinking “yes, this is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.” That is why it gets 5 stars from me and why this particular book managed to save my 2020 reading year.

I shall try to get through this with the least amount of spoilers, making this a shorter review than usual (maybe), but I make no promises.

The first thing that I really need to note is that even though I constantly complained about the dual timelines and how the storylines of Rielle and Eliana felt detached from one another, how I couldn’t justify reading a series that took place in both the past and the future, I get it now. It makes sense now. It was like Legrand knew exactly why this thing was bothering me, saw all my complaints about it, and would just sit there smiling to herself like “oh honey, just you wait.” I feel like this series is one that is truly a journey and while you might find things you like here and there, and things you don’t like, you can’t just give up on it. And if you stick with it you’re going to be rewarded so heavily and all the lightbulbs will go off, making everything make sense and worthwhile in the end. The way Legrand made the two storylines mesh together and tying up all those ends in a way I truly didn’t expect, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect, was the most perfect way to close off the series. I can’t say why, because spoilers, but it worked effortlessly and I’ll forever be amazed.

I also want to note that I actually enjoyed how there was a bit of branching off into different character POVs this time around because it’s clear that this series went beyond just Rielle and Eliana and I liked how Legrand timed the different POVs and really gave us a whole perspective. I don’t think these other characters, like Tal, Navi, and Jessamyn were there for character reasons but strictly for plot and to show how the worlds were responding to Rielle’s actions or Eliana’s capture and reflected what others are willing to do for their queens, or in Jessamyn’s case the Emperor. It’s something I should typically complain about because in most cases the added POVs usually take away from the main character’s story, but not here. Much like in The Last Magician series, all these added POVs help to not only develop the plot and the world, but they matter. They show what’s at stake, how others are affected by the protagonists’ actions, and really provide a well rounded perspective on the story. I also loved that Audric got a lot of time to shine and we were really able to explore his character, seeing how heartbroken he was after Rielle left him and watch him go through that grief he was suffering. These are all characters that had something to say, and something to do, and I’m glad that they all mattered in their own way.

I want to quickly talk about Rielle’s character because I find her to be quite interesting. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I particularly like her, nor do I wholly think she’s a character you should look upon with admiration like you typically want to do with a book’s protagonist. But she’s very interesting to dissect. While she is the Chosen One of her time in Old Celdaria, the one who was born with all of this power and is open to embracing it and becoming the Sun Queen, she wants more than that. And it’s almost as if Rielle has a villain arc but never fully submits herself to being the villain because she still has conscious thoughts bubbling to the surface. I think what’s most interesting about her is that everyone around her simply thinks that her actions are due to Corien planting thoughts in her mind and controlling her, and he was absolutely doing that, but that’s not why Rielle is acting the way she is. She left Audric because she felt he didn’t understand her; she wanted to hurt those who were always placating her with lies; she wanted to embrace her power and drown in it, becoming as powerful as she could. That was all on Rielle. Sure, Corien preyed on her insecurities, planted fears in her mind, and blew them up. He used his power at times to control her and have her stay by his side and or keep her subdued or make her think of her; I mean let’s call a spade a spade: he abused her. And yet, everything Rielle did was almost always because she wanted to. She wanted to open The Gate simply because she was the only one powerful enough to do so. She wanted to resurrect angels because her power allowed it. Everything she did was almost always because she could. And I liked seeing that this power within her from the empirium eventually became something even she couldn’t control and became something bigger than her, no matter how many things she did to right her wrongs or tried to stamp it down. While it was hard to find a way to root for Rielle for almost the entire trilogy, Legrand finds a way for you to empathize with her in the end and I loved the resolution for her character arc. It was surprisingly beautiful.

On the flip side, with Eliana, watching her go through hell and back again in this book almost killed me but there was this growing theme with her character of being so broken down only to pick yourself back up again and come out stronger on the other side, and I think that’s why I loved her character the most in this series. I hated reading about Corien constantly torturing her and trying to bend her to his will, but the fact that she constantly fought him, regardless of the things he put in her mind and tried to break her down every day for hours, she still never broke. I think that showed the difference between Eliana and Rielle, how the latter more or less let the empirium’s power control her being while Eliana separates herself from the empirium, only answering to herself and her power, not its power over her. She found a way to best Corien and to best the empirium, never letting her character be corrupted by the power she’s capable of. There was a moment when Eliana met The Prophet (whom I shall not spoil) and she asked why they allowed Corien to hold her for so long, to break her, and to allow Simon to break her and all that happened to her, and they responded by saying that she needed to be broken to the point where she could no longer be afraid of her power and to let that be the thing that saved her and lifted her up. I just found that moment to be so interesting and a great thematic element of the book and of Eliana’s character, truly emphasizing the amount of strength she has and strength that anyone can have; no matter how broken you may feel, you are still capable of picking yourself up.

I don’t think there’s much else I can say without either spoiling the entire series or without bursting into tears but I will say that this series is one that has so much strength and potential and constantly got better throughout its progression. Things might not make the utmost sense in the beginning, you might not be able to see the worth in reading a story of the past when you already know the outcome of the future, but give it time and you’ll get the point. You will find its worth.

I have been waiting all year for a book to make me feel this way and while it’s a bit overdue, it was absolutely worth the wait. I thank you again, Claire Legrand. For this story, for this feelings, for everything.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Paperback, 1st edition, 592 pages
Published October 13th 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire

Book Synopsis

The incredible conclusion to the trilogy that started with the instant New York Times bestsellers Furyborn and Kingsbane!

In this epic finale to the Empirium Trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claire Legrand, two queens, separated by a thousand years must face their ultimate destinies.

Queen Rielle, pushed away from everything she loves, turns to Corien and his promises of glory. Meanwhile, whispers from the empirium slowly drive her mad, urging her to open the Gate. Separated from Audric and Ludivine, she embraces the role of Blood Queen and her place by Corien’s side, determined to become the monster the world believes her to be.

In the future, Eliana arrives in the Empire’s capital as a broken shell of herself. Betrayed and abandoned, she fights to keep her power at bay—and away from Corien, who will stop at nothing to travel back in time to Rielle, even if that means destroying her daughter.

But when the mysterious Prophet reveals themselves at last, everything changes, giving Rielle and Eliana a second chance for salvation—or the destruction their world has been dreading.

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon

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