The Harvest by Chuck Wendig

Rating 7.0/10
Some damn fine writing in here and some truly excellent action sequences.

The Harvest by Chuck Wendig is the final book of The Heartland Trilogy, a trilogy that I will remember for the scale of its creativity, but a trilogy that I will want to forget because of how much I disliked the characters. Perhaps you are a Wendig fan and need only a few hundred pages of his excellent prose to feel satisfied, but I wanted more from this final book of the trilogy. I needed more from this final book of the trilogy. Because Chuck Wendig is too damn talented to be just that guy with a peculiar but awesome way with words.

The story picks up one year after the events of Blightborn, with the main characters scattered around the Heartland still trying to come to terms with the events that closed the previous books. Cael McAvoy (or as I've come to call him throughout this trilogy, Jerkface McDouchebag) is back, the world has changed while he was away, and he has a lot of catching up to do. He has been charged with bringing down the Empyrean Empire, though he is not sure he still has the motivation for it. Meanwhile the Empyreans continue to scheme, looking for a way to severely punish the Heartlanders for what they did to the Saranyu, but without eliminating the workforce they rely on to stay afloat.

The thing that surprised me most about this book was that Wendig chose to move the story forward by one year, allowing for so much story to happen off-screen. He is not the only person to have done this, and I've seen it done well in other trilogies, but given how huge the events were at the close of Blightborn and given the cliff-hanger we were left with, I wanted to know what was happening right now, not what was going to happen one year later. Right from the start I lost motivation to read this book, and it took a while before The Harvest was able to get its hooks into me.

The Harvest is a story about sacrifice, and Wendig asks all of his characters to give up pieces of themselves so that the Heartlanders have a chance at freedom. Jerkface, Lane and Rigo all make their sacrifices with some resistance and an overall sense of inevitability, but it is Wanda who I really feel for. Wanda makes her sacrifice willingly, becomes irreversibly changed, loses so much of the person she was in book 1 and 2, only to have her sacrifice go unvalued and unappreciated throughout the entire book. It hurts to see how she is treated throughout the book, so Wendig has certainly achieved his goal of making me have feelings for some of these characters that I loathed at the start of the series. That ability to take characters on non-traditional development arcs across three different books should not be understated.

I think the reason why this book didn't really work for me is that darkness and the sense of inevitable doom was just too pervasive throughout the book. In genres like grimdark, the darkness makes those glimmers of light shine brighter, making those morally ambiguous characters seem downright heroic. With The Harvest, the lens through which we view the world is cloudy, meaning that those glimmers of light in the darkness struggle to break through the shroud. There are moments of real hope, but they are fleeting at best, and this extends through to the ending where the surviving characters are left at the crossroads, with all paths leading to varying degrees of hardship.

I think my feelings surrounding The Harvest are representative of my feelings for the whole Heartland Trilogy. There is some damn fine writing in here and some truly excellent action sequences that end up being drowned out by unlikable characters making poor decisions, and a lack of hope for the future being at least as bright as what they had before the journey started. There can be no doubt that Wendig is one of the most talented writers going around, but I think this trilogy has shown that when it comes to storytelling choices, he can be hit and miss.

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