Wow. I’ve finished two of M. Leighton’s fabulous series within a week, and I must admit I’m a little saddened by that. Saying goodbye to a fantastic book series – with characters I connect with and a world I love to escape into – is like moving away from an old friend. Knowing that their story continues, but I don’t necessarily get to be a part of it anymore. Anyway, enough of me waxing poetic with the lame analogies. I just hate when a series comes to a close. Of all Leighton’s series the world of The Fahllen and The Reckoning is perhaps the darkest and most intriguing. Imagine a merging of a Rumpelstiltskin-esque villain, a nod to the mythos of doppelgangers, a strange and unsettling dreamscape world, then mix in a touch of the divine and the hellish and you have Leighton’s incredibly imaginative and terrifying world. Preying on the depressed, the downtrodden, the grief-stricken and those who already gravitate toward evil, Fahl can make your deepest desires a reality… for a price. A fallen angel of sorts, Fahl has been cast out by both Heaven and Hell and has gone into the business of stealing the souls of the eternally undecided – trapping them in his purgatory-like Darkness. Leighton’s gift for descriptiveness and detail brought Carson’s world and the world of the Darkness to life in vivid technicolor. The way she weaves her world together is almost cinematic and I had no problem imagining the world in my minds eye. The setting of this book and the lore behind it is probably one of my most favorite things about The Fahllen series. Since besting Fahl in The Reaping due to a stroke of Divine intervention, Carson has been given the job of reaping souls for Heaven – easing them into the afterlife and giving them one last chance to make a decision either for God or against Him. Ever-competing with Carson for the dying souls’ eternal choice is Grey, Carson’s evil twin sister and Fahl’s “price” for a deal made with the girls’ mother long ago. However, Grey is not only out to beat Carson at reaping souls, but is obsessed with obtaining Carson’s powers – the powers to control earth and fire – and the only way to get them is to kill Carson. Grey is a truly terrifying villain. Relentless, undeniably and unapologetically evil, Grey is completely committed to her own agenda, regardless of her master Fahl’s plans. In no way a sympathetic villain, she is ruthlessly ambitious and commits unspeakable atrocities in the pursuit of her goals. I always wish for villains to have a hope of redemption, a spark that reveals they’ve not completely gone over to the dark side, but Grey appears to have no redeeming qualities.If dealing with a soul-stealing villain and her murderous sister wasn’t enough, Carson is worried about her boyfriend Derek’s increasingly odd behavior and cold attitude, her best-friend-turned-flesh-eating-monster who wants to kill her, her impending high school graduation, and top of all that she receives a prophecy telling her that she will be the one to release all the souls Fahl has trapped in the Darkness. Slightly overwhelming problems for a 17 year old whose biggest worry should be finding the perfect dress for the senior prom. Instead Carson is embroiled in a dangerous conflict that could cost her life and the life of the man she loves.Carson is perhaps my favorite of all of Leighton’s heroines, . Growing up with a strict father who had little tolerance for anything frivolous, Carson is definitely not a girly girl. She’s kind, not blind to her own faults and limitations, she does what she must at the expense of her own comfort and safety, and she has a stubbornness and a strength that gets her through some pretty horrifying situations. She is a girl whose world has been turned upside down and who has experienced great loss within a very short time span. Yet she doesn’t let her trauma paralyze her into inaction. If anything, her losses motivate her into fighting against the evils that plague her life and protecting the precious things she has left. One of Carson’s pillars of strength is Derek, her boyfriend and love of her life. Yet since the encounter with Fahl in The Reaping, he’s been progressively more distant and secretive. Carson begins to fear that she’s losing him and doesn’t understand why, and she knows if he decides to leave her she will truly be on her own. She decides to investigate the reasons behind his odd behavior and what she discovers is nothing she could have ever imagined. If you couldn’t tell from the description, Dear Reader, this book does have elements of the religious, so if you aren’t into books with a religious bent, this might not be for you. Though not what I believe personally about the afterlife and how you get there — The Reckoning is after all a story – Leighton has created an interesting alternate religious reality and myth and I appreciate how respectful she is of her subject matter. Though it has aspects of the biblical, I never felt that I was being preached at – something I hate whether it’s a religious message or a secular one. The author uses her subject matter to build on an already provided lore and universe. So if you tend to steer clear of books with religious overtones, just be aware that The Reckoning is one of those books. Also be aware that you’ll be missing out on a great story if you do skip it for this reason. Overall, thrilling, terrifying and dark, The Reckoning is a climactic and romantic conclusion to the Fahllen series. Definitely check this one out.