Last Exit by Max Gladstone

Summary:
Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. Zelda was the warrior; Ish could locate people anywhere; Ramon always knew what path to take; Sarah could turn catastrophe aside. Keeping them all connected: Sal, Zelda’s lover and the group’s heart.
Until their final, failed mission, when Sal was lost. When they all fell apart.
Ten years on, Ish, Ramon, and Sarah are happy and successful. Zelda is alone, always traveling, destroying rot throughout the US.
When it boils through the crack in the Liberty Bell, the rot gives Zelda proof that Sal is alive, trapped somewhere in the alts.
Zelda’s getting the band back together—plus Sal’s young cousin June, who has a knack none of them have ever seen before.
As relationships rekindle, the friends begin to believe they can find Sal and heal all the worlds. It’s not going to be easy, but they’ve faced worse before.
But things have changed, out there in the alts. And in everyone’s hearts.
Fresh from winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Max Gladstone weaves elements of American myth–the muscle car, the open road, the white-hatted cowboy–into a deeply emotional tale where his characters must find their own truths if they are to survive.

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Last Exit follows Zelda who is trying to protect the world from ending. When she was in college, she and four others that connected, discovered a way to travel to alternate realities. But while in their search for a better world, they discovered the rot. The rot is coming for the world they live in and Zelda has spent the last ten years combating the rot. But when Zelda learns that Sal, her girlfriend who disappeared ten years ago, thought to be taken by the rot, is still out there, she contacts her friends from college for one last trip.
I was so easily sucked into this story. The concept of a bunch of alternate realities was so interesting. I think Gladstone did an amazing job with the world-building and the setting descriptions. I’m not usually very good at picturing settings but Gladstone made it easy to picture the different alts (what the characters call the alternate realities they travel to). I would love a whole book just about these friends’ adventures in the alts when they were first traveling through them.
This is a friend group that I feel like I would fit right in with. Zelda and Sal were in a relationship before they discovered the alts. There’s also Ramon who seemed like a total cinnamon roll. Ish was the one character that I felt like I could never really put my finger on. And Sarah, the mom of the group. Sarah never wanted to travel to the alts but did so anyway because she knew someone needed to look out for her friends. I really liked all five of them. Plus the new addition of June, Sal’s cousin joins Zelda with the goal of learning the truth of what really happened when Sal disappeared. Each of the six bring something different to the group and I just really enjoyed getting to know them all.
This story is told in both the present, with everyone reuniting, and also in flashbacks to the past where we learn the stories that are mentioned in the present. I think this was such a good way to tell this story. It built up the suspense of the group traveling back to where everything went wrong by sharing small bits and stories from the past. We follow them in the present, but we also follow them in the past on their path to losing Sal.
Overall, this book was strange as hell and I really loved it. It’s angry and broken, but also full of healing from the past and characters that each find different ways to move forward from their past. I think the world was compelling and the characters were engaging. I will absolutely be recommending this book in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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