⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

***Spoilers ahead for the first two Wormwood books – read the reviews of ROSEWATER and THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION here***

A spectacular conclusion to the genre-blending Wormwood trilogy from one of the most imaginative writers in SFF today. The story of Rosewater is one of insidious alien invasion, self-serving humanity, powerful interest groups, and running through it all the subtle optimism that imperfect, even cynical people can do good things while making mistakes along the way.

There are multiple story threads running through REDEMPTION. The violence and upheaval that accompanied Rosewater’s secession from Nigeria and the conflict with the cherubim has died down, but the aftereffects are causing a headache for Jack Jacques. A militant group of Homians have begun murdering humans to accelerate the takeover of their reanimated bodies. Aminat has been appointed Rosewater’s head of security and struggles with her own conscience about which side to take in the escalating conflict with the Homians. We get to follow Oyin Da as she manipulates the xenosphere to travel through time and uncover the mysteries of Wormwood’s past. Kaaro takes centre stage again. And amidst all this Femi still has her own agenda…

There’s actually even more going on than I have space to mention. Society-altering court cases, gang warfare, mongoose fights! REDEMPTION is packed full of so much plot, setting and character I can’t even fathom how Tade kept it all straight in his head. And yes there’s a lot going on, but I never felt overwhelmed, just in awe of how alive everything about this book felt.

Tade Thompson really has created something special. The people in this book are real. Rosewater is a vibrant, dynamic city. The society it has haphazardly thrown up is alive, evolving and no matter how weird things get (and things get weird) it all somehow remains all too plausible.

In my review of the previous books, I wrote that the Wormwood series presents us with a pessimistic view of humanity and, while I still think that’s partly true, I’ve realised these books are far more than that. They present a complex view of humanity.

Good people make mistakes. Bad, self-serving people have layers of compassion. And these contradictions are never static. Every character is changed by their experiences, resulting in a mess of conflicting emotions, relationships and motivations that make them all so human. This nuance is explored so fully across the span of these novels that I challenge anyone not to identify with at least some aspect of every character that Tade Thompson has so masterfully brought to life. It’s particularly clever how Tade structures the narrative throughout the series, variously pitching Wormwood and the Homians as potential allies or villains depending on whose perspective the story is being told from and the pragmatic necessities of the shifting power relations between the various people, factions and interest groups.

I admit to reading the first half of the book and thinking it wasn’t quite reaching the heights of the previous books, mainly because, despite an explosive beginning, the plot didn’t seem to be driving forward as much as I had become accustomed to in this series. Taken as a whole however, I fully appreciate that section of the story, even if it did seem to meander more than was necessary at the time. Despite this, the second half of the book takes the series to new heights and I’m feeling so many emotions right now just re-living how this book soars to its phenomenal conclusion.

Overall this was a rewarding, immensely satisfying and at times gut-wrenching ending to what has quickly become one of my favourite science fiction series of all time. I never expected Kaaro to be the kind of character with the emotional capacity to make me tear up, but here we are. If you haven’t already, please please please read these books!

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