Series: Empirium #3
Author: Claire Legrand
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: October 13th, 2020 (Sourcebooks Fire)
Synopsis: 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.
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 Timesbestselling author Claire Legrand, two queens, separated by a thousand years must face their ultimate destinies.
“Love is the one constant force that no violence or despair can diminish. We must hold onto the light of this truth. Even when the world grows dark. Especially then.”
After being rejected by her friends, family, and particularly Audric, a heartbroken Rielle has finally turned to Corien embracing the role of Blood Queen. Meanwhile in the future, Simon’s betrayal has crushed Eliana, and she is trapped and tortured by the Emperor, desperately trying to keep her power at bay so that he cannot use it to travel back in time. But there is still one more opportunity for things to change as the Prophet finally reveals themselves, giving Eliana and Rielle a chance to alter events and step away from the path that will lead to the destruction of the world.
Lightbringer was among my most anticipated releases this year, especially after the brutal cliffhanger that Kingsbane ended on. I had rather excessively high expectations for this one and well…I loved it, but there were certain aspects that I found somewhat disappointing, but also, I want more and wish this was another 500 pages long.
We are still alternating between two timelines, but there are no longer just two storylines. In the old timeline, Rielle is separated from everyone she loves and has finally turned to Corien, seriously considering opening the Gate as she falls deeper and deeper into madness. Back with Audric and Ludivine, things are definitely not going well. Audric, now the Celdarian King in exile trying to get his throne back, has just about had it with Ludivine’s propensity to keep secrets and manipulations, however well meaning.
In the future, Corien has become obsessed with returning to the past and getting Rielle back – and Eliana’s power is the only way to do it. With Simon’s betrayal, Eliana is held captive in Elysium. Navi and the surviving rebels hatch a daring plan to cross the ocean and free her, but they’ll need reinforcements first. All these threads leave us with quite the variety of POVs – 8 to be precise – so we get a glimpse of what is happening on every front. I was quite taken aback to see POVs for Navi, Jessamyn and Tal, but it was quite interesting, so I can’t complain. It was wonderful to see the many pieces come together with the endgame approaching as the two timelines are poised to cross paths at long last.
“Our prayers for so long have been this: May the Queen’s light guide us… But I say that we are the light. We are the salvation we have prayed for! We stand on this earth that is our home, and it is we who will drive from it every creature who would dare try to take it from us!”
Where Audric was a sweet character thus far, he was very much on the sidelines in the previous books. In Lightbringer however, he truly comes into his own and it was so easy to connect to his character and become so invested in his arc in the span of this single book – very apt considering the title.
“We all have light and darkness inside us. That is what it means to be human.”
Rielle is more powerful than ever, but her descent into madness that we saw starting in Kingsbane is faster than ever. While Corien is undoubtedly the overarching villain of this story, Rielle is one too – just of a different type that portrays yet again how things are not always black and white. I get that we’re probably supposed to feel sympathy for Rielle at this point, seemingly abandoned by everyone she loves and finally falling for Corien’s promises of power and glory but I can’t really manage it to be honest. Rielle has never been my favourite character, and I maintain that her situation continues to be the outcome of no one’s actions but her own. That and her strange inability to pull away from Corien even when it’s clear she is horrified by the gruesome experimentation he has been conducting is rather incomprehensible. She is extremely mercurial to the point that her actions gave me whiplash. However, when a character has the ability to get me this frustrated and mad about their actions – that’s a really good character and despite my reservations about certain choices and actions, I will say that her’s is undoubtedly the most complex and finest arc in this series.
And speaking of Corien, is it just me or was he less villain and more brat this time around? In the past timeline, he is still suitably evil and scheming, but it just feels less than before. In the present timeline however, his madness has increased to the extent that he went from one of the best villains I’ve ever read to something of a third rate Voldemort, obsessed with one goal and torturing anyone who gets in his way. I much preferred the cunning and manipulative Corien of Furyborn who I considered on par with the likes of the Darkling and it would have been fascinating for once to see a villain wins kind of story which Corien definitely had the potential for.
Eliana – now there was a plotline I was much more satisfied with. Let’s be honest, the only two characters I really care about in the future/present timeline are Eliana and Simon. Everyone else just felt superficial at this point when the stakes are so high, especially when the Prophet’s grand plan reduced them to the level of cannon fodder. There’s not much I can say about this timeline without spoilers, but I do love how Eliana’s arc turned out – she is now entirely alone and must learn to trust in herself and her abilities even as she undergoes months of torture. When all the time travelling to save the world was said and done however, I’m kind of disappointed at how things ended up for those in this timeline. It was quite anticlimactic.
As for the revelation of who the Prophet is – can I just say we should have guessed it all along? Without giving away too much, who else do we know in this series that is capable of controlling so much from the shadows, pulling strings to make things fall into place for a grander plan over the course of centuries? Said plan is entirely reprehensible of course, and a bit of a letdown considering the cliffhanger that Kingsbane gave us, but it makes sense in a way that is entirely cold and logical. Not to say I liked said character any better for it.
The pacing was the only true fault with this book in my opinion, although the POVs do occasionally jump around a little too quickly. One could say it builds up the tension for the finale, but considering that the biggest question remaining is undoubtedly the events surrounding the Battle of Âme de la Terre and what change Eliana’s ability can effect on it, does it really make sense that the entirety of the battle, along with the conclusion, is wrapped up in just over a 100 pages bearing in mind that this book is nearly 600 pages long? That finale was glorious, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that things should have picked up long before they did, particularly in Rielle’s timeline.
The ending was actually what I expected. Even with something as powerful as time travel, some things can’t be erased or changed, and with how far Rielle fell, there really was no other way out. It needed to happen, and I thought that it was a very dignified and graceful end, all things considered. Audric deserved so much better, but I’m glad the author didn’t try to turn this into a ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ ending which would have just ruined every bit of amazing character and plot building done over the course of the series.
Kingsbane remains my favourite in this series, but Lightbringer was a true delight to read with its action-packed plot and many unexpected twists and turns and I suggest setting aside atleast a couple of hours, because you will not want to put this down. If you’re in the mood for a dose of complex and immersive fantasy, this series is a great choice. The Empirium series has always, since book one, given me that grand epic fantasy feel which is something I’ve really missed in this genre, and it’s a little bittersweet to say goodbye to yet another fantastic series – I think this is the fourth or fifth one this year alone. Nevertheless, I would highly, highly recommend this book and series to any fantasy fans out there!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: