Blood Sky – by Traci L. Slatton

Blood Sky is the fourth part of The After Series.  I highly recommend that you read the first three books: Fallen, Cold Lightand Far Shore.  You will get much more out of Blood Sky if you take the time to read through the earlier portions of the story first.  Relationships are made, and broken, and sometimes repaired along the way.

Traci L. Slatton does a good job of reminding readers about the most significant things that happened in the previous books.  This is not meant as a replacement for reading them, though.  It is important that you “live through that” with the characters before jumping into the fourth book of the series.  One of the things I love about Slatton’s books is that she makes the reader truly care about what happens to the characters (both major and minor).

In Blood Sky, the reader again receives the story from the viewpoint of Emma, an incredibly strong and passionate woman. She is the one who has set out to save the day in the previous books, and she finds herself facing yet another challenge in this book.  Right away, the reader knows something is up.  In a post-apocalyptic world where strange, ever changing, mists roam around dissolving everything (and everyone) in their path – one can assume that there will always be trouble ahead.

Emma is with her “family” – a group of friends that she has met along the way.  Several have been part of the story since the first book in the series, while other joined in later on.  They find themselves in what appears to be an abandoned town, that is mysteriously clean and tidy.  No one knows quite what to make of it, but they cautiously decided to spend the night there.

Susie has been with Emma’s “family” for a long time.  She’s a blond teenager who is very troubled, and it is easy to see why considering her background.  In short, she was kidnapped by a group of raiders who killed her family.  They abused her in ways that are never specifically spelled out, yet are entirely clear.

As a result, Susie has a difficult time trusting people.  She has a talent for killing and is quick with a bow.  Everyone in the “After” must learn how to defend themselves from those who want to cause them harm.  The difference is that Susie takes delight in killing.  There are times when Emma must insist that Susie not kill someone.  Susie listens because, although she doesn’t really trust anyone, it is Emma who she is closest to trusting.

Susie has always been difficult to get along with.  This time, something has changed.  Susie has become more sensitive than ever before.  By “sensitive”, I mean she’s showing signs of having psychic powers.  She knows things.  It isn’t clear to Emma (or to Susie, for that matter) why this is happening now.  It could have something to do with her age.  She’s not a child, yet not quite an adult yet.

Or, maybe Susie is starting to go crazy.  The mists can bring out a wide variety of things in people who get near them.  Some go insane – others discover new talents.  There is a tension building as Emma tries to sort out what is going on with Susie, while at the same time keeping what Susie tells her as secret from the rest of the group.

Much of what Susie tells Emma is hard to hear.  Susie is convinced that Arthur has gone crazy.  Those who have read the previous books in the series, and know what Arthur has been through, might feel that Susie could be on to something there.  Emma, however, is unconvinced – for a while as she tries to sort out who to believe.

Susie is desperately trying to convince Emma to take her away from the group.  Susie insists that she must meet with someone from Emma’s past – a person Emma never mentioned to Susie.  Together, Susie says, they can end the mists – forever.  Arthur, a man who is uniquely connected to the mists, also believes that he can end the mists and save the world.  Susie is adamant that she can’t do that with Arthur – it has to be with the person who visited Susie in dreams.

What path will Emma choose?  Leaving with Susie would mean that Emma would, once again, lose so many of the people that she loves.  Staying with Arthur (and the “family”) might be safer.  That is, unless Arthur has actually gone mad.

But, assuming Arthur is still sane, sticking with him would mean betraying Susie’s trust.  Emma is aware of how hard it is for the girl to trust anyone else, and she feels motherly towards Susie.  What would happen to Susie if she struck out alone after Emma refused to help her?

I won’t reveal Emma’s decision in this review.  There are some events that happen that cause Emma to pick one path over the other.  Even with those things in mind, the choice is a difficult one and includes more heartbreak than I was expecting.

Blood Sky has a very decisive ending.  It pretty much knocked the wind out of me.  I finished reading the last part of the book, and sat there, frozen, trying to process it.  I wondered if I’d read it right.  Did that really just happen? Without giving away any “spoilers”, I will say this – if Traci L. Slatton wanted to end the series here, it would feel right.  On the other hand, there is also just enough left to build the next book on.  I guess fans of the series will have to wait and see which path the author chooses.

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