Title: The Last Beginning
Author: Lauren James
Series: The Next Together, #2
Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: October 6th 2016
The epic conclusion to Lauren James’ debut The Next Together about love, destiny and time travel.
Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?
For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.
My Thoughts On…
It’s been sixteen years since Kate gave birth to her daughter, sixteen years since she helped Matt escape from prison before the two of them disappeared off the face of the earth. Now, sixteen years old, Clove has finally been told the truth about who her real parents are, having previously believed Matt’s brother Tom was her real father. For a while she isn’t able to cope with the knowledge that her whole life has been a lie, but then to take control of the situation she decides that she needs to discover where her birth parents disappeared to.
While searching it’s Clove’s AI who discovers images of Katherine and Matthew as far back as 1745 during the siege of Carlisle against the Jacobite’s. Unsure whether these are her parents or simply ancestors Clove needs their DNA to compare to hers to be sure. Luckily the time machine her parents have been working on is ‘safe’ for travel and Clove successfully uses it to make a trip back to 1745.
But once there there are things that happen that are outside of Clove’s control. Using the name Aline Clove and Ella, a girl she meets along the way who saved her life, get jobs as maids in Katherine’s aunts home. However Clove has arrived too soon and Katherine is not yet living with her aunt. In the meantime she manages to get close to Matthew but ends up revealing too much to him about who she is and who he is to her.
When Clove arrives back in 2056 however things have changed, and not for the better. Messing in the past, even revealing as little to Matthew as she did, has changed the present for the worst and now Clove is on a race against time to find a working time machine and fix the mistakes she made.
There were a lot of questions I had at the end of The Next Together and although it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book it would have been great if they’d been answered. In The Last Beginning all the questions I had, and even some I didn’t have, were answered. It cleared up everything and the way the events connected, from Clove’s experience in 1745 and the ripple effects it had on both Katherine and Matthew in that time and later Kit and Matthew in 1854, was so intricately written.
Clove has lived her whole life believing one thing, that she was Tom and Jen Sutcliffe’s daughter and that Kate and Matt were nothing more than revolutionaries she read about in school, and when she finds out that was a lie it sends her into a tailspin. She doesn’t know what to believe anymore and lashes out at those closest to her. In order to regain some kind control over her life she tries to find out what happened to her birth parents but it seems every end she explores is a dead one.
There is a lot that happens to Clove before she travels back to 1745, things which make her feel small and almost like there is no one in the world she can turn to. She needs answers and she doesn’t seem to care about the risks if it means she has a chance to find them. Along the way she becomes a more confident person; confident in Tom and Jen’s love for her and confident in the friendships and support she has and will always have even when she makes mistakes.
Ella is an enigmatic character. She appears in the sidelines towards the beginning of the story but when she steps forwards and makes herself known she makes every effort to help Clove. A lot of the time however she tends to force her way ahead without taking into account Clove’s thoughts or opinions. Ella thinks she knows best but that doesn’t work for Clove who is used to being more independent and making her own way.
We are told, a few times, that Ella is the love of Clove’s life but there wasn’t enough development of the relationship between them to make it feel real. With Katherine and Matthew in the first book we saw their love story unfold over four different time lines, with the knowledge that there was a lot more out there dotted throughout the important moments of history. With Ella and Clove however there wasn’t the same detail given to their love story.
There was a big focus on Clove and her relationship with her parents, both Tom and Jen who have raised her and loved her since she was a baby and Matt and Kate who are her birth parents. I loved how Clove was written after she discovered she was adopted; the confusion she felt and the way she reached out for anything familiar felt very real and a little heartbreaking as well.
In The Last Beginning we revisit a lot of the settings we did in the first book; mainly Carlisle in 1745 where Clove travels to find Katherine and Matthew, and 2039 as she delves more into the lives her birth parents led before their disappearance. The Last Beginning gave us lot more insight into the way the actions Katherine and Matthew, and even Clove, took in 1745 affected the lives of Kit and Matthew in the Crimean War of 1854. Clove plays a large role in her parents past, and not just because of her use of time travel. I really love the way time travel was written in this book; through it we didn’t just get to see the past but glimpses of the future as well. There were aspects of the explanation I still don’t understand, and I am aware that a lot of what happened in this book was the very definition of a paradox but thinking on it too long honestly made my head hurt a little.
I enjoyed The Next Together but reading The Last Beginning made it even better. There was a lot that was answered which gave me more insight into the first book and made me appreciate the amount of work that went into connecting the two stories. Even if The Next Together wasn’t a favourite of yours I’d recommend The Last Beginning just to get some of the answers you sorely need.
What did you think of The Last Beginning? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.
Also to celebrate reaching my one year blogiversary I am hosting a giveaway and Q&A. The chance to enter and ask me any questions ends in exactly one week, on the 1st of December at midnight GMT. For more information you can check out my original post here.