Well, that’s it, my friends. This is the last book in the Toccata System trilogy and I am very sad to see this series come to a close, but it was such a nice, quick, little series to race through, too. “Prodigal Storm” introduces us to another of STASIS’ orphans, and this one had to—she thinks—murder the love of her life in order to free both her and her sister from their murderous AI of a mother. In the final book, LJ and Conor have to work together to keep Conor’s father from bringing about the enslavement of all the AI’s once again. But can his wounded son take down his own father? Can Conor and LJ work together given what LJ did to him? Such delicious interpersonal angst awaits in this final book! But unlike the previous two books, “Prodigal Storm” is not a novella, it is technically a full length novel and, while the title may give you the impression it is, it’s also NOT a retelling or reimagining of a classic novel like the other two books were. It has some flavors of Treasure Island, but it’s not really “based” on that classic like the other books were. I kind of missed the retelling aspect though, as Swed has done those so wonderfully in the previous books, but I really enjoyed the interpersonal conflict of this book regardless.
LJ and Conor have wonderful pain and angst toward each other—of course they have to given what LJ did to Conor and WHEN. Like really, the timing of her initial betrayal was just the worst in terms of making things hurt for Conor. So these two have a lot to work out in order to achieve their bigger goal of stopping Edward Keyes once and for all. So that is the vast majority of this book, an interpersonal look at LJ and Conor, and LJ and her assassin sisters. I liked getting to see more of the STASIS orphans and how different they were from one another, how each were tormented in their own way. Except for Fay, and you really need to read her companion story to understand her particular brand of anger. I actually really loved her short story, so definitely read it ahead of going into “Prodigal Storm” as I think it’ll make some of the scenarios a bit more clear. Will it spoil things? Eh, maybe, but I felt better having read it first. Do you have to read it first to enjoy this book? No, the reveal will still be utterly satisfying once you get to it. While we get more of the other sister assassin’s, we also get some high seas pirates and a new, sassy AI who I really enjoyed, so get ready for a book full of high stakes and fun. So all in all, the things I loved from the first books are still present, but with a heavy dose more interpersonal drama.
I did find myself missing the original crew though. They do eventually show back up but I loved Astra and Claire and Isabelle so much from the other books that I just couldn’t love LJ and Conor as much. I kept looking for my established favorites, missing their banter and wanting to see more of them…. It unfortunately kept me from falling so hard and so fast for the new characters and the new trouble they were in as they raced across the ocean to Edward Keyes secret island. Don’t get me wrong, I like Conor and LJ and loved how they knew they shouldn’t still have feelings for one another, but I think I loved the other characters more, probably because of how the author wove in her retellings with the far future and sci-fi elements of her new world, and this book didn’t have that.
If you’re looking for a quick sci-fi series with complex AI and even more complicated characters and masterful reimaging’s of classic literature, I cannot recommend The Toccata System books nearly enough. Swed’s writing is a treat, as are all her characters. The previous books in the series were an easy 5 stars for me, but because I just wasn’t as invested in Conor and LJ this time this book is a 4 star for me. What? You thought after all that it could possibly be any lower? Get out of here! I genuinely loved the imagery that Swed paints in this island landscape, and NOA was a delight. My qualms are small and only exist because of how much I loved the other two books (seriously, “Phantom Song” is my ultimate favorite). So if you love complicated romances with your science fiction, definitely read “Prodigal Storm”!
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