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SPSFC2 Finalist Review: The Last Gifts of the Universe, by Rory August

Updated: Jun 30, 2023


Team Escapist, has decided to hold off on posting actual scores. This review expresses my own opinion and not the opinions of other members of either Team Escapist, or other judges on other teams within the SPSFC2 competition.


To start, I greatly dislike any book that involves animals. I’m an animal lover, so to know an animal exists in a book, TV show or movie, creates an underlying fear throughout the entire experience that something bad might happen to said animal. Also, I don’t like to have my ‘feels’ engaged. But that’s all personal, and in no way used in my judging criteria for the book. And … Spoiler Alert- the cat is fine throughout the story! I repeat, no harm comes to the cat!


That aside, The Last Gifts of the Universe, was an exceptional journey through the cosmos. There’s a reason this book made the finals, and I agree with everyone of those reasons- even the ones I don’t know about, or mention in this review.


In, The Last Gifts of the Universe, by Rory August, readers are taken on an enthralling adventure alongside a brother, sister, and their cat as they navigate the mysterious remnants of a dormant universe. Their quest leads them to explore a desolate universe referred to as 'the graveyard,' where they seek caches of information left behind by extinct species and dead planets. They hope this knowledge holds the key to preventing their own civilization from suffering the same fate. Along the way, they encounter a pair of mercenaries working for Verity Co, a company with questionable motives, adding intrigue and tension to their mission.


From the outset, The Last Gifts of the Universe, captivates readers with its exceptional writing. Both the prose and dialogue exhibit a rare authenticity, imbuing the narrative with a genuine and purposeful tone. The book effortlessly combines elements of irreverent humor, which adds an enjoyable layer of levity to the story.


The plot itself is skillfully paced, always propelling forward, even during moments where the histories of past species are explored. The author adeptly employs the essential elements of storytelling, including an inciting incident and progressive complications, to keep readers engrossed.


Throughout the book, readers are treated to a well-rounded experience. The story features moments of action, drama, and mystery, which seamlessly intermingle with quieter, introspective moments. The main characters, including their adversaries, are presented with challenges that they don’t always succeed in overcoming. This balance lends a realistic texture to the overall narrative, drawing readers deeper into the world the author has created.


While, The Last Gifts of the Universe, excels on numerous fronts, there are a few minor shortcomings worth noting. The parallel between the protagonist and Blyreena, may at times appear a little too similar and on the nose, potentially diluting the impact of their respective character arcs. Additionally, there are moments when the book delves into the extended story of Ovlan and Blyreena, which, while captivating in its own right, occasionally gives the narrative a hint of a romantic subplot not expected in the book. Though relevant to the overall story, these sections could be perceived as slightly prolonged.


In summary, The Last Gifts of the Universe, is an exceptional book that takes readers on an immersive journey through a captivating cosmos. With its masterfully crafted prose, authentic dialogue, and well-paced plot, the book delivers a rich tapestry of storytelling. While minor reservations exist regarding certain character dynamics and occasional digressions, these do not overshadow the overall excellence of the narrative. This book stands as a testament to the author's remarkable talent and promises an unforgettable reading experience.


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