Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.
Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.
When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.
But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance.
First off (I have to get this out of the way) I am very upset with the 71 users who shelved this book as a fantasy on Goodreads. This is pure dystopian. The only possibly fantastical element of this is a type of animal that roams the woods – which can really only be considered fantastical under the definition that it’s completely made up. Everything else is either fairly normal or explained away by science….so don’t expect any fantasy!
This book took off with a really rocky start. The narrative opens up with the main character, Sev, in this walled-in city that she grew up in. Unfortunately I found the description of really any setting within the city to be lacking. Whenever a room, street, or even a wall was described, I could never conjure up a corresponding image in my head; and when I would try to, something else would suddenly be described into the setting making me completely reevaluate what I though everything looked like. Part of the reason the city description is so confusing is absolutely due (in part) to the terrible cover design. The “city center” depicted on the cover is NOTHING like how it’s described in the book (just look at the cover…does that even resemble a populated city center?) – even the woman inside of the structure is described very differently. Did the cover designer even read the book? Anyway. This terrible setting description largely only lasted for the first six (or so) chapters of the narrative before it seemed to find its groove.
But once the story started going, I couldn’t stop. From the ‘journey’ section of the story, to the slow uncovering secrets, the pacing of this book was also pretty great. The only issue with the pacing I had was that there were a few parts that felt very awkward where a month would pass by between chapters or a week would, and it felt very artificial. That being said, I agree with the author that those months or weeks skipped over did not need to be in the book, I just wish she would have been more eloquent in creating those time jumps. But at the end of the day it wasn’t bothersome enough to severely hinder my enjoyment of the story.
One of my favourite aspects was the unpredictability of the plot. While there was always a fairly clear narrative progression, everything was shrouded in secrets upon secrets, so when you finally think you have a good understanding of the tensions in the story, you learn something else that turns the story on its head.
As for the main character, I found her to be interesting enough and I definitely felt a connection to her allowing me to actually care what happens to her. All in all, she isn’t super memorable, but good enough to suit the story well. I also appreciate how she doesn’t have crazy unrealistic character development – in other words, she does not go through combat training for a week and come out a bad-ass champion. Rather, other characters end up supporting her where she needs it most.
I also got major The 100 Season 2 vibes from this book – so if you’re a fan of The 100 TV show, this book may be for you!
If I had to rate this book in chunks, the first six(ish) chapters would get a 2 stars, while the rest of the book gets a 4 stars.
This is the first book in the series (I’m not sure how long it will be though), and I would consider picking up the next book!