A Rambling Review of Amnesty: Book 3 in the Amberlough Dossier

Contains major spoilers for Lara Elena Donnelly's Amberlough Dossier Book 1 and 2 (if you haven't read them, what are you waiting for??) and some mild spoilers for Amnesty, but nothing you won't find out early in the book.

Here we are the end of the trilogy.  A thing I have loved about this entire trilogy is just how real and messy the characters are. They can be heroic. But most of the time they're selfish, ambitious, hurt, angry, vengeful, and guarded. These are people who have survived a lot, want to continue to survive, and they are often not noble or heroic in how they do that. The fact that you truly understand why these characters make the choices that they do and can root for them, even when you when want to shake them and yell, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" is a testament to what a truly remarkable writer Donnelly is.

 When Amnesty begins, the Ospies have fallen. Cordelia Lehane is dead. Lillian DePaul has returned to Gedda, along with her husband and surly son, to work for the transitional government and hopefully ensure herself a place with the winner of the upcoming elections. Aristide Makricosta has returned to Gedda and drug smuggling. And Cyril DePaul is alive. Battered, deeply traumatized, and riddled with survivor's guilt, but alive. 

Despite their ambitions and his negative impact on those ambitions, both Lillian and Aristide want Cyril back. Aristide gets him to Gedda and Lillian takes him in to live with her, and to be a dubious influence on her son. What follows is a story about broken people in a broken country trying their hardest to be okay. Cyril can barely speak to anyone, has developed the habit to stealing and hoarding. Lillian's position is precarious due to her relationship, however unwilling, with the Ospies and revelations about her brother's role in the fascist coupe. Aristide is haunted by the loss of his lover, his friend, and the life that he clawed out for himself to escape his own repressive, traumatizing childhood. The people of Gedda are trying to heal from revelations of which neighbors were willing to acquiesce to the Ospies, damage done and people killed by the Catwalk in the revolution, and a crisis of identity. What is Gedda now after the Ospies? Does it, and can it, go back to the country it used to be? Or is it time to build something new? 

The upcoming election fans the flames of resentment and hurt and that flame turns towards Cyril. A convenient target to represent all the sins of the Ospies. While Cyril is willing to let that flame burn him to ash, Lillian and Aristide refuse to let him go without a fight. They both fight for him in their own, very distinctive ways. Still believing in the system, Lillian gets him a good lawyer and tries to insinuate herself into the confidence of the two women running for office in hopes of throwing a bit of water on that flame. Aristide does his best to bribe and blackmail Cyril's way free. 

Through all of this, Cyril is a mostly passive player. He's too filled with guilt and shame and too broken by the trauma of surviving after he fled Amberlough to believe himself worth fighting for. His first encounters with Aristide are heartbreaking and harrowing. After the decadent, lush, sexy, relationship in Book 1 it's startling to see them together here. Burying metaphorical knives in one another's ribs out of pain and fear, barely able to look at one another. There's a scene where Aristide helps Cyril shave that's so simple, but so fraught that I forgot to breathe for a whole page. 

Slowly though, Cyril does start to heal. He tells secrets to his nephew, abandons some of his survivalist behaviors, and starts to wonder if maybe he didn't destroy everything good in his life (namely his relationship with Aristide). 

While I was reading I had one complaint. Cordelia Lehane was my FAVORITE. I loved her. And not only was she dead, but she died off the page! But, though it pains me, I think that was right. Ultimately, the Amberlough Dossier isn't the story about the BIG MOMENTS. The kinds of events that, one imagines, Geddans will put in the history books. It's not the story of the coupe, the revolution, the heroic death of a populist hero, or the first elected government. It's the story of the inbetween. Both the things that happen between the huge, historical moments, and the people who live in the gray areas between hero and villain, saint and demon, powerful and powerless, respectable and criminal. 

In that spirit, the ending is perfect. It's not a neatly wrapped up happily ever after and neither is it an utter tragedy bereft of hope. Ultimately, it's that exploration of those gray spaces that makes this trilogy one of the most interesting and unique things I've ever read.

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