Thomas made it through the Maze and the Scorch and thought that was the end of WICKED's grueling trials. Now the reality of what's really going on in the world is revealed and it's more terrifying than anything he's faced yet. To combat the Flare, WICKED is asking him to complete one last trial. Once he does, they've promised him it will finally be the end for real. But what they don't know is that Thomas remembers more than he's told them. And his memories, combined with the fact that WICKED has taken everything from him, tells him that they can't be trusted one bit. After finally reuniting with some of his friends, Thomas attempts a daring escape. But is he really free or is it all part of WICKED's ultimate plan? Racing against time, he must unravel the truth of what's going on and face one last showdown with his nemesis. But not everyone will make it out alive.
The Death Cure is the action-packed conclusion to the original Maze Runner trilogy. I'm not sure if James Dashner originally conceived of the series as a trilogy and later added the chronological prequels or if he planned to do it this way all along, but The Death Cure stamps "The End" to the main part of the Maze Runner story. It's been quite the ride that I've very much enjoyed. With the series falling into the YA Post-apocalyptic, Dystopian, Science Fiction genre, the comparisons to the Divergent and Hunger Games series are inevitable. So far, I've personally liked The Maze Runner better than Divergent, but not quite as well as The Hunger Games, despite me giving it all five-stars just like The Hunger Games. I think that's because The Hunger Games is more emotional and delves a little more deeply into the characterizations, while The Maze Runner is a more plot-driven story. I still liked it because it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, wondering what would happen next, and that was especially true of this final book. The action barely let up from start to finish with our intrepid hero, Thomas, and his friends in near-constant peril. Some of the chapters are pretty short, giving it a more fast-paced feel, and James Dashner has a real knack for ending each one on a mini-cliffhanger that draws the reader in and makes them want to keep turning the pages. So, overall, this was a great wrap-up for me.
As with the other books in the series thus far, Thomas is the sole third-person narrator. From the beginning, he's been a somewhat reluctant leader, first of the Gladers, and then of his friends outside the Glade in the Scorch. Up until this book, he wasn't the only leader, but in this one, he's front and center, calling most of the shots. It's a role he's well-suited for but not entirely comfortable with. He's an intelligent young man who has a knack for figuring things out as he goes along, and he doesn't entirely trust anyone, especially WICKED. I like how he steps up to the plate to try to save humanity and has an instinctive sense of what's the right thing to do. He's a fierce warrior, but at the same time, he's compassionate toward others and mourns the loss of friends along the way. He's also a forgiving soul, still feeling some sense of friendship and obligation toward Teresa even when she seemingly betrayed him. Overall, I found Thomas to be an excellent character to have in the driver's seat throughout the series.
While there are a plethora of secondary characters, I felt like Thomas was the one who was primarily front and center this time around. The others are there to help when needed and provide support, but weren't quite as big a part of the story this time. Chief among them are Brenda, Jorge, Minho, and Newt, who spend the most time at Thomas' side, fighting for the cause. Teresa, Aris, Frypan, and some of the others from the Glade and Group B are off doing other things that we don't really see, but they do become factors toward the end of the book. One past character surprisingly resurfaces as an operative for the Right Arm, a rebel organization that is targeting WICKED's operations. Then there's Janson, aka Rat Man, who seems to head up WICKED and is the primary villain throughout.
Since this is YA literature with potentially objectionable content, this is where I'll take a moment to discuss that from a parental point of view. There is no sensuality beyond a couple of pecks on the cheek and one very brief, chaste kiss on the lips. The only drug-related content is a couple of scenes involving people who are infected with The Flare using a drug called Bliss to slow down the progress of the disease which leaves them spacey. The language is pretty much the same as the previous two books. There are a handful of mind profanities, a couple of British profanities, and the characters use Glader slang words that stand in for actual bad words. Younger kids may not make the connections between these words but older teens surely will. However, the area that is probably going to be of most concern is the violence, which I felt increased a little in this book along with the maturity level. There are a lot of deaths in this installment, including a couple of characters who've been there since the beginning and whom readers are sure to care about. In the previous books, these types of deaths were a little more at a distance, whereas in this book, Thomas kills two people by his own hand, one of whom is a friend, which gives it a much more personal feel. The one saving grace in these scenes is that because of the fast pace of the story, the author doesn't dwell on these things for long before moving on. Also, the characters encounter a lot more Cranks this time around, and they're basically zombie-like humans whose brains have been eaten away by The Flare and who feed on human flesh. We see the horrible conditions those who are still succumbing to the disease live in, as well as violence perpetrated by those who are past the Gone. This is all on top of near-constant intense action and suspense. Because of these things, I personally wouldn't recommend the book for anyone under 14-15 unless read with parental or educator guidance.
For some reason, The Death Cure is one of the lower-rated books in the series. Since I haven't yet read any reviews, I'm not sure why. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it ends with us still not knowing the full extent of Thomas' involvement in the creation of the Maze and the details behind the overall experiment to find a cure for The Flare. I have a feeling this will all be revealed in the two prequels, The Kill Order and The Fever Code. Perhaps some readers finished The Death Cure not knowing about the prequels or perhaps they weren't written yet. I personally wasn't particularly bothered by it one way or the other. I felt the book still ended quite well without that knowledge, but since they now exist, I look forward to reading those books to find out more of what happened before the Maze. But for now, The Death Cure was a very satisfactory wrap-up to the main part of the series. It really kept me reading and coming back for more, so I certainly can't complain.
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