I guess a simple 'I really liked it' isn't going to do it this time, huh? Too bad, because it is so much easier to explain why I don't
This book felt like a decent culmination of the first two books. Much more of it takes place internally, in the dreamworld (and in the MCs heads), but seeing that Wil is a dream himself, that was kind of a given. Also, Gods don't manifest themselves on the physical plane, so if they are taking an active part, we'll have to move inward. I happen to like introspective books. I happen to like characters that are flailing. Wil and Dallin flail most deliciously.
Dallin has run into the one thing he isn't able to take in stride: the blind faith and adoration of his countrymen, for whom he is pretty much the messiah. With his past experiences, he can't stand for people to look at others that way, especially not himself. He feels woefully unprepared for the task ahead, he keeps being told he is woefully unprepared by the Elders who have their own issues with blind faith, but slightly different, and he is convinced it is going to cost him his life, Wil's life or both, never mind the fate of the rest of the world. He struggles with how to prepare Wil, who has been unconscious for days and is barely back among the living when everything starts to come to a head. He is torn between everyone's expectations, his love for Wil and his need to protect him, his need to guide him, his need to guide Lind, his sense of duty, and the sacrifice of life, love and/or happiness.
Wil, on the other hand, has barely been conscious for a total of two days after he and Dallin first had sex. One day in Chester, one day in Lind. He struggles with the concept of feeling love, and being loved for who he is, not what he is. He wants to believe it's happening, but can't quite believe it all the same. With his background love, shame, abuse and hurt are tightly interwoven and he can't bring himself to dig into that mess to face the shame, to sort it out. Not that he has a lot of time to do so, the first 80% of the book takes place in about 24 hours, in which he consults with the Elders, travels to the Boundary, gets drugged and abducted, travels to Faedme, and has to make up with the Mother and battle the Trickster. It is understandable, if frustrating, to see how doubt keeps creeping back in. When Dallin doesn't share everything with him, what does that mean about how he views Wil? It takes time and effort for Wil to move beyond his knee-jerk reaction.
Beyond the MCs inner struggles, the book is about the difference between belief an knowledge. At what point does a long-held belief becomes something that we think we know for a fact? When that belief is challenged, are our minds closed or open to the possibility that our belief is wrong? What is the value of blind faith? All these questions get asked, if not necessarily answered.
Four stars instead of five for a few reasons: this was the only book in the series that felt YA in the sense that the underlying message was hammered on a bit too much and the final battle was a bit too much standard fantasy fare. All in all a great series, but one that really needs to be read back to back. Even in the week between the reread of book 1 and 2 till 3 came out, much momentum had been lost.
ETA: Don't miss the epilogue on Carole's website: http://www.carolecummings.com/Everything.htm