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Reviewed by Amber Cayley
Opening sentence
A detailed setting and suspenseful plot, reviewed by Amber Cayley
October 11, 2022

Black Spiral by Eileen Merriman is the last installment in the Black Spiral Trilogy and is sure to get you questioning: are you ever truly safe?

In the near future when a deadlier strain of the measles virus, M-fever, has killed millions and the people you put your trust in every day – nurses, politicians, and police – are corrupt, is there anywhere that is safe, anyone you can turn to? Can you truly trust anyone but yourself?

Johnno and Violet have escaped the clutches of the Spiral Foundation’s compounds only to find that the sinister Foundation is everywhere. They have to find somewhere to hide, somewhere that’s safe. Not just for the two of them but also for their unborn child, the child that the Foundation is so desperate to get its hands on.

“Beat. Heartbeat. One, two, three. I only just became aware of the third today, just another complication in an impossible situation.”

With freedom slipping further and further away, Johnno and Violet must race to expose and shut down the Foundation before it’s too late. They will protect their baby at all costs and no one is safe while the foundation is still at large.

After reading the first two books in the Black Spiral Trilogy I was very eager to immerse myself in the final phase of the trilogy, Black Spiral. The first two books in Merriman’s dystopian trilogy introduce us to Violet, a teenager who has acquired extraordinary abilities after surviving the M-fever virus. She is held prisoner by the Spiral Foundation, a group of medical researchers desperate to control her powers and the powers of other M-fever survivors.

As Violet learns how to use her newfound abilities we see just how strong she is, especially when she uses them to escape the Foundation with Johnno, another ‘virally optimised’ teenager, who is also her boyfriend. I was keen to see how Violet’s character would be developed further in Black Spiral, and what would happen to Johnno and Violet now that they were free of the Foundation compound and I have loved reading Black Spiral.

Merriman has created a world that is not necessarily relatable, as it is science-fiction as set in the future, but is certainly believable and well detailed, with its driverless cars, new technology, and fruit and vegetables nearly extinct, the setting of Black Spiral transported me to the mid-2030s. Black Spiral is fast-paced and suspenseful but doesn’t leave you behind feeling confused.

I think Merriman has done a great job of creating the characters for the Black Spiral Trilogy. With their special powers, Violet and the other ‘virally optimised’ teenagers could have been hard to connect with, but the normal teenage banter they share and their raw emotions have you caring about what happens to them and praying for their freedom. On the other side, the way Merriman has built the characters of the evil Foundation staff has you loathing them with all your being, and of course, there are those characters that you can’t quite decide on, the ones you can’t tell if they’re good or bad, hero or villain..... well until the end, when all is revealed!

I know that if I went through what Violet does – contracting M-fever, gaining new powers, being imprisoned by the foundation, becoming pregnant, and facing countless losses – I would fall apart. Violet continually shows her bravery, no matter what situations she encounters she always finds a way to push through.

“I should be scared but I'm not, because I think – I know – that I have transcended a new boundary. The boundary between life and death.”

Black Spiral is an action-packed science fiction adventure, with strong characters, a detailed setting, and a suspenseful and well-oiled plot. Merriman concludes the Black Spiral trilogy well, tying up all loose ends and keeping the reader hooked, in Violet’s final fight for freedom.

- Amber Cayley is in year 10 at Sacred Heart Girls’ College in New Plymouth.
Author & Illustrator: Eileen Merriman
Publisher: Penguin