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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

Empty Smiles (Small Spaces #4) | Review

Rating - ⭐⭐1/2

"It’s been three months since Ollie made a daring deal with the smiling man to save those she loved, and then vanished without a trace. The smiling man promised Coco, Brian and Phil, that they’d have a chance to save her, but as time goes by, they begin to worry that the smiling man has lied to them and Ollie is gone forever. But finally, a clue surfaces. A boy who went missing at a nearby traveling carnival appears at the town swimming hole, terrified and rambling. He tells anyone who'll listen about the mysterious man who took him. How the man agreed to let him go on one condition: that he deliver a message. Play if you dare.

Game on! The smiling man has finally made his move. Now it’s Coco, Brian, and Phil’s turn to make theirs. And they know just where to start. The traveling carnival is coming to Evansburg.

Meanwhile, Ollie is trapped in the world behind the mist, learning the horrifying secrets of the smiling man's carnival, trying everything to help her friends find her. Brian, Coco and Phil will risk everything to rescue Ollie—but they all soon realize this game is much more dangerous than the ones before. This time the smiling man is playing for keeps.

The summer nights are short, and Ollie, Coco, Brian, and Phil have only until sunrise to beat him once and for all—or it’s game over for everyone."


Empty Smiles is the fourth and final book in the Small Spaces by Katherine Arden.

In all honesty, I completely forgot this book came out, but luckily I caught it at my library and got it loaned right away. I don't have much to say about this book because, well, there isn't much to it.

This is a really short book to the point where it is more of a novella. I don't think the author really knew what to do with this series, because the way this book was written did the story no favours as it did not do a good job of wrapping everything up.

The story picks up after the events of the last book where everyone is dealing with the aftermath of Ollie having gone missing and is presumed dead. What follows after is just a whole bunch of plotlines that were not properly dealt with to completion. There was just this lack of effort on the part of the author to make an intriguing story that made sense and actually went somewhere.

For example, as stated in the summary, Ollie is stuck in what I called some form of limbo, and she has to complete a specific task in order to escape. The issue there though was that Ollie was barely focused on, at all, so her perspective and storyline felt entirely pointless. On top of that, we have a resolution that makes no sense considering what has happened thus far.

After the first book, which I rather enjoyed because it packed some punch and had a good story, I don't think the author knew where to go with the rest of the series. The books just didn't connect well with each other and important elements that were established in those books were kind of just ignored or not utilized well in this one.

So, overall, this book suffered from some serious continuity issues that resulted in an ending that not only made no sense but was also very lacking. It is a shame because, as I said, I really enjoyed the first book and to see the rest of the series not be able to hold up to the premise is disappointing.

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