This third book of the PSS Chronicles series by Ripley Patton continues the story of Olivia Black and her runaway friends, led by the elusive Marcus, straight after the brutal tragedy in the final pages of Ghost Hold. Some of the valiant band are held hostage, some are dead, some are hurt, and some on the run. In the same way that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix marked a turn of the series to a much darker place, so does Ghost Heart, in which torture and death are main characters and violence is more graphically depicted than in its predecessors.
This change in flavour sets the stage for the exploration of the concepts of hope and despair. For amidst the mess left in the aftermath of Ghost Hold comes Olivia’s tenacious hold (pun intended) on hope, however faint its glimmerings get.
Author Ripley Patton captures said mess in a couple of interconnected, mutually enhancing ways. The first is by writing Ghost Heart from three point of views. Marcus, Olivia, and Passion’s very distinctive voices are quite unique because of their PSS, but also because each one has a past quite different from the other two. The resulting three different perspectives act as three little lights that at first only light up a tiny portion of the picture, then slowly increase to meet each other in some places and, eventually, light up the entire tableau. The darker feel, both because of the plot and the more graphic scenes, makes the book quite different from the first and second book in the series, which can make readers understand some of the confusion felt by the characters. Marcus’ memory loss is another wrench in the machinery, as is the blurring of the line between good and evil which leaves us wondering: just who is on whose side?
Despite all of this, Olivia keeps her head straight and her gaze directed towards a better future. In spite of the seemingly hopelessness of the situation she is in — caught in a highly secure, underground bunker with a special bracelet that stops her from controlling her hand — she doesn’t give up; rather, she keeps thinking about how she can get out and what she can do to thwart the experiments of Dr. Fineman (who, by the way, is anything but a fine man). She truly is an empowered female character, all the more so that she remains flawed and imperfect, making both some great moves and some pretty bad ones. But ultimately, she never gives up; she demonstrates a very strong sense of ownership with regards to her life, which plays an important role in the story.
Interestingly enough, this book is slower than the two previous volumes in the series; while I can see how some readers expecting the same level of intensity might be disappointed, it feels like the calm before the storm during which we get to really look at our surroundings and start calculating just how things might end. I felt that Patton was strengthening the foundation for the fourth and final book of the PSS Chronicles, which I am really looking forward to reading. More information and Ripley Patton and her work can be found on her official website.