By: Lindsay Cummings
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Buy it here!
With short, fast-paced, alternating point-of-view chapters, The Death Code starts several weeks after The Murder Complex ended. Zephyr keeps the secret about Meadow close—that if she dies, The Murder Complex will be destroyed, too. Meadow, desperate to find her brother, father, and little sister, is determined to fearlessly fight to the end, even if it means sacrificing herself and her friends, new and old. The Death Codeintroduces a memorable cast of secondary characters and delivers a vivid and scary thrill ride read.
I’ve mentioned loads of times before that THE MURDER COMPLEX was one of my favourite books of 2014, but as the wait for this sequel grew I slowly started to lose a tiny bit of interest in it, so by the time THE DEATH CODE came out I was really eager to read it, but at the same time, I didn’t really remember what had happened in THE MURDER COMPLEX. Even re-reading the last chapter of the first book was difficult because so much had built up in the final third of that book that I would have had to read at least the last 150 pages to fully be caught up with what was happening. And so the first hundred or so pages of THE DEATH CODE were kind of… difficult for me. I was trying to remember who everyone was, and trying to put the plot together was frustrating because I had next to no idea what had just happened. But as the book went on, and as I remembered everything and was drawn more and more into it, I remembered why I adored THE MURDER COMPLEX when I first read it, and I ended up loving THE DEATH CODE. The plot was so action-packed and intense, and the ending was emotional and perfect for the story.
THE DEATH CODE follows Meadow and Zephyr as they face the consequences from THE MURDER COMPLEX, with both understanding the secret of Meadow’s connection to the Murder Complex. In this book we see them eventually leave the Shallows and see the truth of what lies beyond the perimeter, and it’s not what they expect. And this conclusion to the duology carries over the fast-paced short alternating chapters between our main characters. In THE MURDER COMPLEX the short, fast-paced chapter were one of the main problems I had, but in this book I felt like it was one of the best aspects. In the first book it seemed a bit too choppy for me, with scenes ending abruptly and jumping around a lot, but this time round it flows so well and the short chapters weave together pretty much perfectly.
I definitely recommend checking THE MURDER COMPLEX and THE DEATH CODE out if you’re interested in dystopian novels, as they are extremely enjoyable books which stand uniquely in the genre as a whole.
(The rest of this review contains spoilers)
This book didn’t completely blow me away, but it gripped me for the majority of the time and left me really satisfied with how it concluded, despite ending in a fairly open way. I tried to keep myself from having too many expectations for this book, not because I thought it wouldn’t be that good, I just didn’t want to hope and expect for it to be insanely good and be left disappointed. So by the time I picked it up and started reading I wasn’t really feeling it. The opening was alright; it’s weeks after the events of THE MURDER COMPLEX and Zephyr and Meadow haven’t seen each other since. Meadow is a prisoner of the Initiative being interrogated to reveal where her mother is after they broke her out at the end of the last book, and Zephyr is still roaming the Shallows, trying to fight the Murder Complex, and looking for Lark so that he can move one step closer to ending the Murder Complex. On one hand, Lark’s death was sad enough that I felt sad about it, but on the other it didn’t really phase me. She was in the series for such a short time, and even though her final scene with Meadow was touching, I didn’t really feel that bad. Meadow spends the rest of the novel reflecting on her death, convincing herself that even though Lark was a bad person, she was still her mother, and that was what was sadder to me; not that Lark was dead, more that Meadow was left without a mother again, after thinking she was dead for so long before finding her alive. Meadow spends most of the novel looking for her family, hoping that her father and Koi are still alive, and knowing that Peri is still alive and being hurt by the Initiative. Seeing her re-unite with her brother and her father in the Ridge was so heartwarming, but at the same time upsetting after she finds her father dying.
One of the things that I really loved about the book was the fact that Meadow’s health is constantly getting worse after they leave the Shallows. That probably makes it sounds like I’m some sick guy who enjoyed Meadow’s pain, but trust me it’s not that at all! I really loved seeing Meadow fight so hard, and truly be fearless. She gave 100% to everything that she done in this novel in the attempts to find her family and see that everyone was safe, that’s why her father’s death was much more emotional for me. After everything that Meadow went through to find him, and how close they came to getting him out alive, it was sad to see him go and leave Meadow parent-less. And then, the ultimate saddest part, of course, was reading Meadow’s death. When she achieved what she needed to, when she got Peri and Koi to safety, and knew that the only way to kill the Murder Complex was to die… that was a very very emotional scene to read. But of course, Meadow wasn’t going to just go that easily, and in the New Militia brought her back to life, allowing her and Zephyr got to go and live free. There’s not much I can say other than the fact that I really liked that. It’s nice to see them end the series peacefully and happily.
The plot is probably the strongest thing about THE DEATH CODE. As with THE MURDER COMPLEX it very much has its own unique feel in the midst of a plethora of YA dystopian novels. While it on occasion has MOCKINGJAY and ALLEGIANT vibes, it definitely holds its own. The dystopian world in this series has its own atmosphere and is defined in a clear way to distinguish it from any of the most popular dystopian worlds recently. The threat of the Initiative is completely different to that of the threat of the Capitol in THE HUNGER GAMES, and through both books it’s constantly interesting and engaging to see how Meadow and Zephyr fight back against it.
The writing in THE DEATH CODE was another of the strongest points. This is the 4th Lindsay Cummings book (well, third book, one novella) I’ve read (after THE FEAR TRIALS, THE MURDER COMPLEX, and her MG novel, BALANCE KEEPERS: The Fires of Calderon) and I’ve yet to find any reason to fault Lindsay’s writing. This book is where her writing really shines and stands out though, and I can’t wait to read more books from her, because they’re just so good to read!
In the end I probably still preferred THE MURDER COMPLEX over THE DEATH CODE, but that in no way means that I didn’t fully enjoy this book. It’s been a while–if ever–since I really a really compelling and fulfilling duology, and these books were exactly that. Both books hold their own merits and downfalls, but despite anything that I think could have been better in either of them, they both deserve a massive amount of praise. The story arc in the series has to be one of my favourites in recent years, and there is a lot of re-read value to be found across the 900 pages of the series, so I’ll definitely be reading these books again at some point!
Again, Lindsay Cummings has written a book that captivated me and left me feeling… well, just left me feeling happy with the book that I’ve read. I can’t wait until her next book–BALANCE KEEPERS: The Pillars of Ponderay–to come out, and whatever books she’ll be releasing after that.