It’s difficult to encapsulate what the ending of a series that has captured your imagination so thoroughly and invested your heart so intensely means to you without gushing uncontrollably. That difficulty is only compounded when you realize that this last installment ties up so many dangling plot points and brings full circle what has become a huge life-changing saga with a cast of so many incredible characters—each easily demanding their own mini-review. Then, at the apex of all that you have your own visceral gut reaction to a story that has brought you such joy you hardly feel competent enough to fairly review it without simply saying—I loved this so much you simply must buy the book—books—all of them—even though they will make you ugly cry so many times. If you haven’t guessed by now then I will tell you I am speaking of A Wish Upon The Stars—the fourth and final book of T.J. Klune’s Tales From Verania series (I am pretty sure I just heard his fan club squeal just a little bit). And therein lies the dilemma—how to dissect something so many have come to love, this reviewer included.
Let’s begin with a spoiler alert—if you have not read this series thus far, in particular the third installment, The Consumption Of Magic, then this part will contain information you will not already know—stop now and go read that book before continuing. As this last book opens we know the following things: 1) Sam had left at the end of the third novel to fulfill the destiny he hates with a passion—to learn how to control and channel his magic and lead the dragons which he had already met and got on his side previously. 2) Said destiny was already known by both Morgan, Sam’s mentor and Randall, a fellow wizard who also had a hand in teaching Sam. This fact will wound Sam deeply and cause a rift between he and his beloved Morgan—causing them both pain and, for Sam, some distrust and bitterness.
3) This looming uncertain future also foreshadows the possible death of Sam’s cornerstone and love, Ryan Foxheart who, when Sam left, was lying near death recovering from the assassination attempt by Ruv—who had all along been traitorously acting in cahoots with Myrin—the dark wizard. 4) Morgan is dead—yes, I still gulp back tears when I write that—he died at Myrin’s hand as his magic was consumed, making Myrin more powerful than Sam could ever imagine. 5) The dark wizards, led by Myrin, their de facto King, have taken over Verania, enslaved the people, placed King Anthony in the dungeon and are systematically destroying any pockets of resistance.
It’s this moment that Sam returns with Kevin in tow. His friends are…changed and yet the same in many ways. A gentle half-giant and a lewd mouth hornless unicorn are still running amuck. Ryan is alive and still gorgeous and the Prince is still quietly stubborn and determined. But there are also many changes. Randall is missing, Morgan is gone and Lady Tina de Silva—the very one who betrayed Sam to Ruv and Myrin…well let’s just say her status is the most surprising of all. Suffice it to say that Sam has some groveling to do and that a battle looms for him, his dragons, and all he loves in order to defeat the darkest, strongest wizard they will ever have to face. With your heart in your throat and a stitch in your side from laughing despite your tears and fears you enter into the magic of this last wonderful, imaginative, epic adventure.
Why does this series work? Why does it grab us where we have the most feels and wring us dry, leaving us thoroughly satisfied and insanely happy while causing emotional upheaval the likes of which we never thought possible? What is it about these absurd characters who loom larger than life and carry us on a journey we are never quite ready for and we never want to end? I believe the answer lies in how much this rag tag group loves each other—enough to call one another out for their mistakes while reminding themselves they would do it all again to save each other. The answer to the insane popularity and near maniacal following this group of books has can be found in the simplicity of a faithful half giant named Tiggy, the sass and fierce loyalty of a hornless, horny unicorn called Gary, the sincerity and deep abiding love of a knight commander Ryan Foxheart, and the grudging yet heartfelt friendship of Prince Justin.
However, there is more than just these well thought out and fully realized characters that make this novel stand out in a genre where even the best fantasy writers can’t touch Klune’s genius. It’s his uncanny ability to take outrageously strange and weird creatures like Kevin, Tiggy, Gary, and, yes, even the naked and horny tiny King of the Fairies, Dimitri, and give them human qualities—traits that we see both in ourselves and those we also hold dear to us. Indeed, it’s precisely because we find pieces of the most normal human emotions in these fantastically, anything but human, crazy sidekicks that we feel so attached to them in the end. They become our family—just like they are Sam’s. We invest in their hilarity, their short-lived moments of anger and frustration, their unquestioning loyalty, and their kick ass, take no prisoners attitude.
T.J. Klune has not only created a whole new world in this series, he has inhabited that land with some of the most strangely beautiful beings. He has given them heart and, in doing so, stolen ours. I will miss this wonderful land of Verania. I will so many things–Sam’s almost manic train of thought and his love for his knight commander, Ryan’s posing, Tiggy’s hugs, Gary and Kevin’s bakery innuendos, Morgan’s gentle guidance and unwavering love for his apprentice, and, yes, even Randall’s eyebrows. For those who pick up this book—pay attention to the Author’s Note at the end—don’t cheat and read ahead—trust me it will be so much better if you don’t. It made me smile.
What more can I say—except, if you haven’t yet, do read this series. It is so well done—so imaginative, so truly sweet, and chocked full of adventure. For those who are entering into this last chapter, I think A Wish Upon The Stars is the best installment by far. Sam has grown up—and is ready to kick ass. It’s EPIC—yes, I capitalized that, so it must be true.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.