Title: The Merciless 4: Last Rites
Author: Danielle Vega
My Rating: ★★★★
Summary: “The ropes tighten on Berkley Hubbard’s wrists. Blood drips down her fingers and lands with a smack on the cold floor of the church basement. She’s trapped, bound, and petrified by fear. A knife punctures her fragile skin as Berkley’s captors search for the mark of the devil on her body. They say they want to save her–drive the devil away and cleanse her soul–but the cuts are deep, the pain is agonizing.
When Berkley arrived in Italy a week ago, she never expected to be fighting for her life. After spending six months at the Institute, confined to a room with the dangerous-yet-alluring Sofia Flores, Berkley was certain that a vacation in Italy with her two best friends would be the perfect getaway.
But Berkley is hiding a terrible secret, one that threatens to upend her life all over again. As she’s forced to face her wicked past, she learns that the devil is always watching, and no one is coming to save her.”
Here are the links to my reviews for the other books in the series:
Onto the review!
I was pulled into this book right from the start. It starts with Berkley counting down how much longer she has to spend in the mental institution she’s in. It was intriguing to start with a totally new character, but see an old character, Sofia, in a new setting. Vega does a good job of describing the setting early on, which makes the institution come to life. Something else that is cool about The Merciless 4 is the way it’s written. It jumps between Berkley in the institution and in Italy, which allows the book to move along quickly in both plots.
Speaking of the plot, like I said with The Merciless 3, the plot is better built than the first two. It is more interesting and feels like there is a plot outside of the gore. The friendships (while not as developed as in the third book) are fairly interesting. Berkley and Sofia’s relationship changed over time and was fun to see develop. The readers know more about Sofia than Berkley does, which is a cool dynamic for a book like this. One thing I noticed in the first and last book of the series is the shitty friends. Sofia and Berkley both make friends with horrible people! I’ve had toxic friendships before, but (not even including the gory stuff) they are on another level of terrible people. I don’t understand how they really thought those people were their best friends??!
This isn’t important, but Berkley, Mara and Harper all get into NYU and are super chill about it?! That is a hard college to get into and they all seemed like it wasn’t that hard to get into or something? (I just checked and their acceptance rate is less than 20% this year).
Something I didn’t love about The Merciless 4 was the setting. This series is supposed to be set in the present, but most mental institutions like the one Vega described have been shut down. Vega described a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest situation, but those have been shut down with good reason. (Examples of why can be seen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).
Additionally, the fact that everyone inside the institution is supposed to be crazy is a little bit of a problem for me. I understand that this is a horror novel and so that works with the plot, but regardless, authors need to be careful with their portrayal of mental illnesses. Sofia is crazy and that’s fine. She’s evil and murdered someone, so her being insane is part of the plot. (She’s not even necessarily human, because she’s possessed by the devil). Berkley tries to say she’s different, that everyone else is crazy, but in reality, they are probably in similar situations to her or have mental illnesses. To portray everyone as crazy when they aren’t supposed to be crazy or evil like Sofia is a little problematic.
As I have said with every book in the series, Vega’s descriptions are what really makes the books so good. There were a few lines I almost didn’t want to read because they were gross. But so good. For example…
“Blood runs down my arms and legs in ribbons.”
Lastly, the ending to this book was perfect! It completed the series in a very satisfying way, which is hard to do. I definitely enjoyed this series a lot, though it had some pretty major faults.
Every time I make a playlist for a Merciless book, they get less and less cohesive as I try to use different songs (and end up with many of the same ones). But here goes…
- Evil In the Night – Adam Lambert
- No Wrong No Right – Soundgarden
- Broomstick – L7
- Eating Simon – Hands Off Gretel
- Voodoo – Adam Lambert
- Enter Sandman – Metallica
- Devil in Me – Halsey
- Ghost – Michael Jackson
- Gasoline – Halsey
- Basket Case – Green Day (with the music video, this seems very fitting)
You can listen to the whole playlist here.
Thank you for reading! 🖤☠️🔪