Book Review: Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 9 of The Expanse
Publisher: Orbit (November 30, 2021)
Length: 560 pages
As I’ve said many times before reading this novel, the idea of starting Leviathan Falls made me feel both excited and nervous. The best science fiction series I’ve read in…well, forever, is about to come to a close after nine books. Considering how picky I am, and how many series I’ve abandoned over the years because they just don’t cut it, that I’ve stuck to the very end with this one should tell you how good it is, and how much I love it.
Obviously, if you’ve made it this far as well, you’re probably also a fan of The Expanse, but in case you’re not caught up, this review may contain spoilers for or references to the previous books. Leviathan Falls picks up where Tiamat’s Wrath left off, with the hunt for Winston Duarte, the former High Consul of the Laconian Empire who was responsible for the Tecoma disaster. But the unknown invaders who destroyed the gate builders long ago have returned, and this time they have set their sights on destroying humanity and anyone who would use the Ring network.
For the first part of this story, we follow a new POV character, Colonel Aliana Tanaka, as she is tasked to hunt down Duarte—which takes up a rather significant chunk of the plot. Upon realizing the enormity of this mission, Tanaka decides one way to tackle it would be to first track down Teresa, the former High Consul’s beloved daughter, who is also missing. Meanwhile, of course, readers know that Teresa is actually on the Rocinante, and even though she is reluctant to part with the crew, James Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos all agree a warship is no place for a girl. Still, the Roci takes care of its own, and with a greater threat of an ancient enemy looming over all of them, Teresa may be safer with them after all as humanity must come together to save itself.
So I confess, I was kind of expecting an epic finale, but Leviathan Falls didn’t quite qualify for that category. I don’t mean that in the negative, however, as an ending can still be great without all the pomp and bombast, and in fact, substance over style is actually much more preferable. And substance, I’m happy to say, is something this book had in spades. I’ve come to find its title to be especially apt, as this volume along with the very first one Leviathan Wakes serve as perfect book ends to an amazing saga that has come full circle, revisiting some themes (and even some characters) that had been there at the very beginning. And like everything else, so much of it comes down to the protomolecule and the mysterious network of gates.
Most importantly, I believe all the major threads get resolved, and sometimes, that’s all you can ever hope for in a conclusion to long-running series such as this. We also get to spend plenty of time with the original crew of the Roci, and seeing them all aged like this and a couple of them experiencing another major turning point in their lives was definitely something special. With humanity’s survival hanging in the balance and the outcome yet unclear, it really hits home just how much everyone has to lose.
As I mentioned before though, this final installment might have felt substantial but perhaps not quite as epic, and I think part of that has to do with the story’s pacing. After the events of Tiamat’s Wrath, there were certainly enough reasons to be invested in the hunt for the unstable former leader of the Laconian Empire. Still, I felt that this thread went on just a little too long and was ultimately unimportant, relative to everything else that was going on. Tanaka was also an interesting antagonist but didn’t have the charisma or memorability of some of the more effective POV characters from previous books to really hold her own.
I think those are the only factors keeping this from being a full five-star review, because otherwise Leviathan Falls was quite enjoyable, and keep in mind my expectations going in were also sky-high. What’s most important is that longtime fans will not be disappointed, and that’s something pretty much guaranteed. I wish I could say more, but this finale should be experienced firsthand, and I wouldn’t want to risk revealing any more than I have already. All I’ll say is that it was a very emotional ending, and that the epilogue was very special and awesome. If you still haven’t read The Expanse yet, I recommend you don’t wait much longer; with all nine books completed now, there’s no excuse! Now that we’ve come to the end, it feels both amazing and bittersweet, but above everything else I am so grateful to have experienced this series.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Abbadon’s Gate (Book 3)
Review of Cibola Burn (Book 4)
Review of Nemesis Games (Book 5)
Review of Babylon’s Ashes (Book 6)
Review of Persepolis Rising (Book 7)
Review of Tiamat’s Wrath (Book 8)