Audioook Review: The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco

After a treacherous journey and a life-shattering meeting with a twin neither knew they had, Haidee and Odessa expected to emerge from the Great Abyss to a world set right. But though the planet is turning once again, the creatures of the abyss will not rest until they have tasted another goddess’s sacrifice.

To break the cycle, Haidee and Odessa need answers that lie beyond the seven gates of the underworld, within the Cruel Kingdom itself. The shadows of the underworld may hunger to tear them apart, but these two sisters are determined to heal their world—together.

The Never Tilting World was a very unique kind of fantasy world that I read last year and really enjoyed, so I was very much looking forward to this sequel/finale. I was so glad to find the audiobook and I’m happy that this one turned out to be equally wonderful to listen to. 

The first thing I noticed about this book was that it felt much more fast paced than its predecessor. Once I started, I really flew through it and the multiple narrators also made it a very enjoyable experience. The writing was very crisp too, with wonderful descriptions of the changing landscape due to the turning of the world, as well as the gruesomeness of the monsters whom the characters have to constantly fight. The fight sequences where every person with a power got to show their abilities were written excellently and despite multiple such scenes, each of them felt different in its own way. There weren’t many plot twists this time, and I loved that most of the story involved multiple groups of people who completely distrust or hate each other having to work together for the sake of the greater good. There was also a lot of analyzing clues from poems involved, which is always a cool concept and kinda fun. 

It was actually nice to finally see all the characters come together in this one. Odessa and Haidee share an instant connection as soon as they meet, and I completely adored their absolute love and trust in each other. Despite dangerous circumstances and the possibility of them having to make sacrifices, they don’t shy away from wanting to be better than their mothers to resolve the issues with their world, and it was highly admirable. Lan and Arjun similarly turned out to be great partners, always supportive of the sisters but also bringing them back from the brink when something disastrous happened. I also liked that both of them formed their own kind of bond, owing to the similarities of their situations. 

We finally get to know more of the backstory of Asteria and Latona, and how the Breaking happened and while it was easy to hate them in the first book, getting to know them better definitely elicited more sympathy from me. It’s a great story of how misunderstandings and maybe even jealousy can cause rifts between two people who love each other very much, and I was impressed with the contrast that the author was able to show between the relationships of the mothers vs that of their daughters. There were also many other side characters who got good arcs, and I particularly enjoyed the banter between Vanya and Lisette, and also loved seeing Sonfei back. 

I still remember the author mentioning in their note in the first book that they decided to create this world which is always waylaid by natural disasters because Philippines is always suffering from the drastic effects of climate change, and Rin wanted to bring that helplessness that the residents have to deal with to life in this series. And expanding on that, they show us in this finale how those in power exploit the world’s natural resources, but when they realize that their actions are destroying the world itself, they decide to take an easy way out and sacrifice young women instead of doing the actual work to create more sustainable practices. This felt so much like what corporations and politicians are doing in our life, asking normal people to make everyday life changes instead of taking more substantial impactful measures at a larger scale. 

In the end, this was a very fitting end to the story with everyone having to make their own kind of sacrifices to create a better world, and I think that’s a lesson everyone can remember. If you are interested in a fantasy which explores interesting familial relationships as well as a fascinating world which is an allegory to the ravages of climate change, then this is perfect for you. It is thought provoking as well as exciting, sometimes desperate but always with a light at the end of the tunnel – and so full of love. 

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