Bree T's Reviews > Ebony Hill

Ebony Hill by Anna Mackenzie
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Feb 28, 11

bookshelves: dystopian, library-reads, post-apocalyptic, series, young-adult
Read on February 18, 2011

So Ness is now in Vidya where Devdan comes from after them both having to flee the island that Ness grew up on at the end of The Sea-Wreck Stranger after Devdan’s existance was discovered and Ness’s involvement made clear. Fearing for their lives as they were hunted down by members of the community, Ness and Dev escaped in a boat. When Ebony Hill opens up they have already been in Vidya for some time (where Vidya is in relation to the island Ness is from is not made clear) and their journey is not something we’re made privy to. Dev has once again joined the research expeditions and Ness is trying to fit into the new community but it’s hard. Vidya is slowly recovering from contamination – many areas in the city and surrounds are still contaminated with groups working to fix the sites. The air is heavy and smoggy and hard to breathe. Ness also finds the city very claustrophobic after the rural isolation and cleanliness of her island.

When Devdan returns from yet another expedition with Ronan, a boy from another island about Ness’s age who was found in a boat with dead family members, it’s decided that Ronan and Ness will be taken to Ebony Hill, where there are several major farms that are responsible for producing all the crops and meat for the city. The farms are out of the contamination zone, staffed all year round by residents who choose the peaceful life and the ranks are bolstered by city dwellers during harvest times. Ness is grateful for a chance to escape the city, she knows farm work and it might just help her clear her head and get a better idea of what direction she wants her life to go in when she returns to Vidya.

Not long after they arrive at Home Farm, Ness and Ronan are on their way to visit another smaller one some distance away when they are thrown into the middle of a desperate grasp for power. A rogue military group who have been known to harass some of the smaller independent farms, but never the large town-supplying ones, have taken one of the smaller town farms and are planning to take the others, including the massive Home Farm. If they succeed, Vidya will have no access to fresh produce and the city will surely starve, not to mention the huge amount of people that will be killed in the coup. Ness and Ronan race back to Home Farm to warn them and before they know it they’re in the middle of a fully fledged war – the paramilitary groups have weapons that Home Farm and the reinforcements from Vidya are powerless against – explosives. Ness, in a time of desperation, suddenly finds that her calling in life might be obvious after all.

From the relative low-keyness of The Sea-Wreck Stranger, this novel is definitely…more. More violent, more evidentially dystopian, more grueling, more dangerous. From the time Ness and Ronan arrive at Ebony Hill, the novel steps up an incline that gets steeper the further you read. This novel is infinitely more plot driven whereas the first novel felt very character driven.

What I did like was the way that Mackenzie brought the worlds – the recovering Vidya and the rural and prosperous Ebony Hill to life. The descriptions were rich and vivid and gave a real feel for both the visual surroundings and the lives being lived in the places now. We are no more the wiser for whatever it was that contaminated parts of the world, but during a train-like journey to Ebony Hill they pass through a dead town that seems to have been caused by a nuclear meltdown. I do feel that with Ness in Vidya we could’ve learned more about the why’s of the way of this world but that was not the case.

The characters were again well crafted – even secondary and relatively unimportant characters had something to make them interesting and not just background filler but the main characters you could really sink your teeth into, especially Ness. Always brave she steps it up a notch again in this book, and although she wonders about the family she has left behind, she realises that there is nothing left for on her island now and that she needs to make her home here and choose what she wants to do with her life. There are many options, options that wouldn’t have been available to her back on her uncle’s farm and it’s obvious that she doesn’t want to choose too rashly, lest she make the wrong choice.

The power struggle is well defined at first but seemed to drag out a bit too long in my opinion and was resolved in a very unsatisfactory way. The paratroopers were portrayed as having truly formidable weapons and they inflict some real serious damage on Home Farm, both structurally and to the residents and yet in the end it almost seems too easy to defeat them. While I was turning pages anxiously during the beginning of the conflict, I was less engaged towards the end and just wanted it to be over already.

I was also a little confused about whether or not Mackenzie is trying to draw relationships in the novel. While we’re only treated to Ness’s point of view and have that to go on, it seems that several times we are supposed to feel that she is in love with Devdan and desperate to be with him. Devdan is not a large part of this book, in fact he’s absent for probably 9/10′s of it and I found that I was constantly waiting for his reappearance. He seems more distant from Ness in this novel and with the introduction of Ronan I didn’t know if he was supposed to distract her from her feelings for Devdan or not. By the conclusion of the book I still had no idea if I was supposed to be cheering for anyone to get together or not. I don’t like being confused!

While I love sequels, and I love finding out what happened to Ness and Devdan after the conclusion at the end of The Sea-Wreck Stranger I really hope this is not the final book because I feel as though there was more left up in the air at the end of this one than there was at the first one. I’d love to see Ness go on her journey towards the career she has chosen, and to see if she actually ends up with Devdan (I can’t remember how old he is, but I do think he is significantly older than Ness and does refer to himself as an uncle or big brother figure, so perhaps this is unlikely) or Ronan, or someone. Girl deserves a bit of happiness.
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