A beautifully crafted post-apocalyptic dystopian that reads like a delicious action adventure fantasy genre novel. This is the book I have been waiting for.
What the cover says: With New York City decimated by war and plague, most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.
What I say:
Holy moley, I loved this book. I mean, unqualified love. It satisfies on every level.
The world-building here is simply stellar, full of seamless and sensible detail. (You can tell that Ann Aguirre comes to writing YA through a science-fiction/fantasy writing background.) This is fully immersion in a very alien environment, for all that it exists underneath ‘our’ world, post-nameless-apocalypse. I loved discovering our own world through Deuce's eyes. The scene where she first sees the sun is wonderful, and when she tastes a can of cherry pie filling, it’s an extraordinary experience.
Even better, Aguirre accomplishes this without stopping the action. She only lingers over descriptions as they become important.
Stuff happens. A lot of stuff. Even though this is the first book in a series (of course it is), the characters are fighting battles and navigating untold dangers. It’s not merely the set up for the next chapter. There is a hard won accomplishment at the end of the book that satisfies, even though it’s clear that problems still exist. This is the Star Wars of Trilogies. The Empire hasn’t been destroyed, but the rebel base is safe and the Imperials are down one really expensive Death Star.
And still more stuff. I was exhausted by the end of this book. It is fight, slog, run, fight, fight, run some more. When things get tough for the characters, wait a minute, because they’re about to get tougher. Not only that, the extreme suck of this world is so gritty and tangible you can taste it. The Freaks are horrible, nightmare monsters, and they’re like the Terminator and the Xenomorphs (from Aliens). The just. will. not. stop. coming.
This is the real deal. There is no manufactured conflict or any “why don’t they just...” solutions.
Deuce is genuinely tough, but she has a heart. She begins the story ashamed of that heart, that weakness, and she is vaguely contemptuous of anyone who isn’t a hunter--even though she acknowledges they need builders and breeders, too, it takes her the length of the book to acknowledge there are other types of strengths than simply being the most bad ass fighter.
The love story is subtle, taking a back seat to the survival story. I really liked that--even though Deuce and Fade develop feels for each other, they are partners in survival first. I found it just right. And considering how raw the violence is, the romance stuff was distinctly not. It was romantic, and very gently sensual.
Past tense! *hugs Ann Aguirre*
A couple of things I loved that you might not:
The action is very violent. This is visceral, survival-level stuff. Much bone-crunching and gut-spilling. It’s not gratuitous, but nothing in this world is sanitized.
Actually, that’s the only caveat I can think of.
Don’t forget to stop by Myra McEntire blog for more awesome info on our first Bookanistas Give Back project
And, as for the rest of the Bookanistas…
Elana Johnson marvels at The Third
Christine Fonseca takes a shine to Demonglass
Shelli Johannes-Wells scribes about The Story Board
Shana Silver is rapturous about Moonglass
Carrie Harris revels in Divergent
Rosemary Clement-Moore adores Enclave
Stasia Ward Kehoe has Perfect cover love
Veronica Rossi enthuses over Enclave
Megan Miranda travels the pages of Blood Red Road