Imago. The final stage in metamorphous.
Always. Aud reaches maturity.
I enjoyed the Aud Torvingen trilogy. I think it is important literature. For me, it was a case of diminishing returns, as I rate The Blue Place higher than Always on first perusal. However, just like I never judge a movie by its ending(1), I consider the overall effect of this 3-novel work to be creative, thought-provoking, informative—all the things artful communication should be. Aud is Ellen Ripley; she's Sara Conner, yet with far more emotional depth concerning—and working out—the things that matter. I am glad an author with as much sensitivity and smartness as Nicola Griffith stopped by the hard-boiled genre booth to gift us these storylines dependant upon emotional depth rather than Kevlar virility.
Plotwise, go to Goodreads.com. Hint: It breaks from the previous novels' structure as it's both a dual plot and timeframe mirroring back and re-enforcing its themes.
Feeling-wise, maturity means making yourself vulnerable to others, to live with reverence and wisdom, but most of all, it is allowing others to be, well, others. Love and mature growth depend on your ability to give without selfish attachments. When Kick tells Aud, "you're a sensualist, a hedonist of the first order," she's rightly sticking her with the egotist dart. With all her intellectualizing and defense mechanisms, Aud's focus is her surface. Marital Arts expert, bedroom shenanigans, fitness addict, cop without the uniform, being fookin' rich an' six feet tall.
Always means just that: maturity is a commitment to all ways.
But you have to leave the mirror and the disco clothes behind, grasshopper.
1) Isn't it a Hollywood commandment never to kill off the hero? A purely financial decision, if you think that way. That's why classic Film Noir is so great. The minute you see Mitchum in all that glorious daylight among a more-natural, country landscape in Tourneur's 1947 film Out of the Past (Build My Gallows High, by Geoffrey Homes aka Daniel Mainwaring, webspace here), you know when he returns to the dark city, he's a dead man.