After finishing book two in The Last Binding series, I couldn’t wait for Robin and Edwin to return triumphantly in the final book. While both men are present in A Power Unbound, they once again step to the side and let other characters lead the charge. Our two new but familiar leading men, Lord Jack Hawthorn and Alan Ross, did remarkably well and stirred up the same magical energy that I loved in book one but with a much sharper bite.
Lord Hawthorn wants to be left alone, but he doesn’t have much choice in the matter. And to his dismay, Jack is dragged back into British magical society. It appears he is weak to his friend’s demands as they are determined to prevent an evil magic-stealing scheme, and it doesn’t help that Jack’s own family member is public enemy number one. Jack is being forced to confront a past he very much wants to forget. He’s surly and rude, and his pointed jabs land nowhere satisfying. That is, until Alan Ross re-enters the picture. The handsome young reporter (and thief) has come to offer the group his services in hopes that their influence will land him a better job. The two men are drawn into an intoxicating and vicious dance as they try to heal their wounds, save the world, and maybe find love along the way.
If you’re keeping up with my reviews of this series, you’ll know that I was not a fan of book two. The story was severely limited by its boat setting and it lacked the charm, tension, and romance that unfolded between Robin and Edwin in book one. I didn’t know what to expect in book three, so I had my reservations. But alas, in A Power Unbound, we return to London, and it felt so good to be back on the story’s home turf. The energy of book one is replicated here as we dash about from magical manors, haunted graveyards, Houses of Parliament, and hidden magical society offices. It felt like returning home after a long voyage across the sea. Everything was familiar, but spicier with Jack and Alan at the helm. I am delighted that Unbound brings us back into the thick of things, and it feels much more grounded in the larger story.
Is it possible to both like the role a character has in a book while also questioning their overall relevancy? Alan is an excellent foil to Jack and exposes the reality of the London masses who don’t have the privilege of magic, wealth, or power. It’s also incredibly fun to watch Jack deal with someone who is game to verbally spar in a brash manner. And while I love how Alan and Jack interact, I also question Alan’s role outside of his ability to support Jack’s character development. When it comes down to the cast’s plans to prevent all of Britain’s magical society from collapsing, Alan is like an extra hand that no one needs. He has no meaningful interactions with any of the characters outside of Jack, and while he does possess some helpful skills, it feels largely insignificant. When we read Jack’s POV, the other characters and their involvement in the plot are heavily featured, but Alan is always a quiet, unassuming figure listening in the background. If Marske wanted to emphasize Alan’s “otherness” as a poor, unmagical immigrant in hoity-toity London society, then that was successfully done because he feels removed from the main cast’s circle. But if that’s the case, the commentary surrounding his place in society and the group never reaches a satisfying conclusion…which leads to my next point.
For the first two books, we follow educated, well-off, and mostly magical members of British society. Alan appears in book two as a secondary character, but when he is granted a POV in Unbound, he grounds the story in reality. He is not magical nor rich, in fact, he and his large family are one mishap away from living on the streets. The pressure to provide for his family serves as his motivation throughout the book. It’s also a point of contention between him and Jack, as Alan’s station in life is never more evident than when he’s near the future earl. However, the inclusion of Alan and his struggles feels misplaced because there’s not really a purpose. Yes, it informs his decisions and, ahem, his bedroom fantasies. But Alan often feels like the charity case that got thrown in with a group of wealthy friends while they try to save magic. There’s no resolution or lesson to be found unless the lesson is to be friends with wealthy, powerful people because that’s your ticket to get ahead in life. All of the class struggles that Alan faces just fizzle out as he gallivants around with his new group of friends.
Despite my struggle with book two and Alan’s unfinished business in Unbound, I would still recommend the entirety of The Last Binding series. Robin and Edwin won me over in book one, and their story still shines so brightly in my memory. Sure, things slowed down a bit in the sequel, but a lot of that magic returned in book three, and I enjoyed the prickly energy between Jack and Alan. The series has a great story and a lot of romance without either one overshadowing the other which is altogether very satisfying in my book.
A Power Unbound – 7.5/10
The Last Binding – 7.0/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.