I recently developed a taste for the dystopian genre and largely that is because one of the things I most enjoy about a book is when it presents me with an amazing new world. Good characters and strong plots are necessary things, but being transported to a new world is what takes a book from good to great for me. And the worldbuilding is what largely marks dystopian literature. This book encapsulates this while also delivering on the amazing characters and tight suspenseful plot. From the beginning, it challenged me with the big ‘why’ and ‘what’s really going on?’ even as it drove forward to introduce me to the people and their world.
Everything is built on the premise that there is a huge meteor collision with earth that cataclysmically altered life as people knew it. They were forced to retreat below the surface and continue their lives below. Centuries pass and a whole new civilization has built up from the early attempts to keep things as similar as possible to what they had above on the surface. Unfortunately, power corrupted and instead of good, caring civil servants as leaders, a class structure developed and the leaders became known as the Sun Dwellers, those living in the mid-cavern realm became the middle-class Moon Dwellers and the poorest were relegated to an even lower region and became the Star Dwellers. The Sun Dwellers namely the leader ‘President Nailin’ turns the screws tighter so that his oppression is breaking the backs of those below. Freedoms and rights have all, but disappeared and the people are ready for change no matter what the cost.
Adele was born into a typical working class home and was happy with her dad, mom and little sister until one night the Enforcers burst in with claims of her parents being traitors. Her parents are taken away to be killed, she is put in a juvenile prison facility doomed to spend the rest of her life in prison and her sister is put in an orphanage. Life is bleak and she has to scramble to survive prison existence with gangs, violence, deprivation and loneliness. One day two things come to change this. First she experiences a painful physical reaction when she observes the parade going by the prison with President Nailin’s golden boy heir, Tristan, being the honored person. Her whole body is wracked with pain and it is some weird connection she has with Tristan and he looks right at her proving he feels the connection too and is he making her feel pain on purpose she wonders. While she is bowed under the pain, a girl named, Tawni joins Adele and notices the connection even as she makes friendly overtures. Adele is suspicious, but she is hungry for human contact too. Plus there is just something different about Tawni.
Tristan is on one of his father’s errands once again. He is in the Moon Realm to secure the leaders’ signatures on the new treaties and contracts that will squeeze the people even harder. Their leaders are sycophants of his father and they’re profiting by this too. He hates his role in all this and hates all that his father is doing, but feels nearly as trapped in his place as these here in the lower realms. On his way to the ceremony, he is hit by a physical reaction and soon discovers the source to be a girl who stares through the bars of the prison. Is she causing him pain because she hates him? Is she experiencing it too? What is going on? He is plagued by his intuition that the girl is important and he has to get down to the bottom of their connection. His father refuses to let him go back to the Moon Realm, but for once the incentive is great enough to provoke him into breaking away and doing for himself. With memories of what his mom would have encouraged him to do if she were there and with the company of his best friend, Rock, he sets out to find the girl.
Adele’s new friendship to Tawni leads her into a second friendship with Cole. Both know of her situation and surprisingly both want to help her get away and find her family. Breaking out of prison isn’t easy, but they have a slender chance. It looks hopeless until they get some timely help when the mysterious bombings begin in the Moon Realm. Their quest is full of many things- danger, action, companionship, heartbreak and hope. And shockingly enough, her path crosses with Tristan’s and she has to decide if he’s genuine and trustworthy just like she must find her inner strength if she is to complete her quest.
The story was told from both Adele and Tristan’s perspectives. It is first person narration and allowed me to quickly learn their characters and how they thought about things. Both are older teens who have been untried up to this point, but fate seems to be calling them to fulfill a purpose. They share a mysterious connection that I really wanted to learn more about, they share fighting abilities that they were taught that suddenly are extremely useful, and they both end up on a quest of sorts related to their parents. I enjoyed watching them grow and develop even as I enjoyed the action portion of the plot too. There is a hint that their interest may develop beyond curiosity and common journeys, but it is just the hint in this first book of the series. I like how things are pacing out for the overall story arc. The end of the book merely closes the chapter on the first part of the adventure and leaves things wide open for what is to come. That big zinger of a secret that Tristan is keeping just left me even more eager than ever to continue the adventure.
All in all, it was a fascinating and exciting reading experience. It is a YA book that would be appropriate for a broad YA audience as it only has mild language and moderate violence to contend with. Those who enjoy their YA dystopian adventures with a hint of romance and intrigue should give this series a try.
Review by Sophia Rose
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