Thursday, March 2, 2023

Review: The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland

The God of Endings
 by Jacqueline Holland
Flatiron Books
Publication Date: March 7th, 2023
Hardcover. 480 pages.

About The God of Endings:

"By turns suspenseful and enchanting, this breathtaking first novel weaves a story of love, family, history, and myth as seen through the eyes of one immortal woman.

Collette LeSange is a lonely artist who heads an elite fine arts school for children in upstate New York. Her youthful beauty masks the dark truth of her life: she has endured centuries of turmoil and heartache in the wake of her grandfather’s long-ago decision to make her immortal like himself. Now in 1984, Collette finds her life upended by the arrival of a gifted child from a troubled home, the return of a stalking presence from her past, and her own mysteriously growing hunger.

Combining brilliant prose with breathtaking suspense, The God of Endings serves as a larger exploration of the human condition in all its complexity, asking us the most fundamental question: is life in this world a gift or a curse?

The God of Endings is a tragic, beautiful, and incredibly thought-provoking story. It's a melancholy and compelling story that grabbed me from page one and took me on a journey I never could have predicted. 

This story follows Colette LeSange who is, of course, a vampire, as well as an artist and the head of a fine arts schools for children in New York. Her story of getting to New York is a long one, and is also one that plays very strongly into her present place in life. We follow Colette in the present as a teacher, her life has been fairyl consistent until she begins to have a growing hunger for blood that is stronger and more demanding than she usually experiences. This new development coincides with the start of a fresh school year with a new slate of students, and one boy in particular who grabs Colette's attention. 

The God of Endings has a dual timeline narrative taking place in both the present and the past, the first taking place in 1984 in New York as a teacher, and the latter following Colette starting in the 1830s as a child through her transformation to a vampire, and all the way through her life up until the present. In general, I found the present day narrative much more compelling simply because I loved seeing Colette work with the children and manage her life as a vampire. As much as Colette's vampirism is obviously key to her identity, it is at the same time not something overly heavily focused on in a way–it's more just a part of who she is. We have many small explanations and explorations into how she manages being a vampire living in a mortal world and how she manages to keep others and herself safe, though this is not something that too much time is spent on. 

The chapters set in the past started out strong and I was captivated by the events that led up to her being turned into a vampire and how learned to cope with what is a conflicting and terrifying experience. The middle portions set in the past at times did start to feel slightly repetitive and really slowed down the pacing in these chapters, but fortunately Colette herself was an interesting enough character to keep me turning those pages. I think all of the background we get to explore  is incredibly vital to understand how she got to the place she is today and how in ways she seems very contended and settled in her life, but is also simultaneously extremely unhappy in her life and is constantly yearning for a connection with someone. Colette really embodies of sense of acceptance in realizing that her life is just sort of one that's mean to be a lonely existence, and that no matter how much she fills her life with the beauty and delights of her art and the children around her, she will also have to keep going through this life alone.

I felt like a lot of this book was about following Colette and watching her experience her life while trying to figure out exactly what to do with this life that she's been given. The God of Endings plays with the question of immortality and whether it's a gift or a curse, and I think that's really something that is what's at the heart of the story–and I really liked that. I found Colette to be an incredibly engaging character whom I loved learning more about. I think she has an incredible head on her shoulders and found her voice to be extremely strong throughout the entire story. I absolutely adored seeing all of her interactions with the children and how she treats them in a way that showed respect and care. Her interactions with a young boy named Leo especially captivated me with regard to how she tried to help him feel comfortable and encouraged him to talk to her about his home life. She's not perfect by any means and certainly makes mistakes at times, but she is never afraid to acknowledge those mistakes and keep trying, and I really appreciated that. 

What I really loved about The God of Endings was that this wasn't a typical vampire story. There's really not a huge focus on the sheer aspect of vampirism and killing people or animals or anything like that–there are actually only a select few moments that have any real violence in them, which might be contrary to what most people expect in a vampire story. This story felt much more like a character study into a very unique woman's life. The vampire aspect plays a much heavier role in the past storylines than they do the present, though that doesn't mean it didn't play a prominent role in the present as well, it was just more subtle in ways. Because of this and the lack of explicit explanation of vampire rules or how they worked, there was a bit of mystique that enveloped the story, and it worked so well. I had questions here and there throughout the story, such as how does a certain thing work with Colette being a vampire or how she managed to do something, and we never really get solid answers to some of those things. But because of how this story is written, I didn't ever feel like I was missing out on that information because it didn't feel like it was actually necessary to the storyline. That's not what this story is about. 

This story is not about vampire survival, it's about the bigger questions and themes surrounding vampirism and immortality and what it means to be turned into this creature against your will that is both human and not human, a creature that can connect with other humans but is also forever divided by other humans because, at the end of the day, you're always going to be the one to keep living and experiencing things that they will never experience. Jacqueline Holland explored all of these things incredible well and created an incredibly captivating story that might not be everyone's cup of tea, but was absolutely the perfect book for me. It's slower paced throughout most of the story and if you like character studies or contemplative, more thought-provoking novels, then this is definitely the story for you. 

Lastly, I just want to touch on the ending (with no spoilers!) and say that this was one of the most perfect endings for my taste I could have hoped for. I genuinely could not be more satisfied with this ending even if it's not exactly the nicest and is in fact a bit messy. It couldn't have fit the story better.

Overall, it's probably apparent that The God of Endings is getting five stars from me! Even if you're someone that doesn't typically like vampire novels, I would still encourage you to check this one out since it doesn't feel like a typical vampire story (I'm not even a huge vampire fan myself!). This is certainly a book I expect to remain a favorite and I highly, highly recommend it. 

*I received a copy of The God of Endings courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

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