Okay, this book doesn’t need much of my over analysis, nor does it need me inferring all the super-secret squirrel influences that I often see in the stories. I’ll cut to the chase.
3 stars (More realistically around 3.5. It got better as it went on so I expect the next one, or may be the third one due to the sophomore slump, will be even better.)
Plot vs. Post-apocalyptic Earth.
The Penelope Fletcher’s vision of post-apocalyptic Earth where humans lived in walled fortresses and struggled to keep safe from numerous demons “outside the fence” turned out to be almost like a supporting character itself. At one point we even get a glimpse of what the ruined city had once been, London.
In this world, Demons had the upper hand outside the highly protected enclaves where humans hide. Demons include the usual suspects and more, this time they include the Fea, Fairies. The primary players are Vampires and Fea though there are hints of other demons lurking in the forests and abandoned cities.
None of this is particularly unique, though the way Penelope Fletcher describes it may be. Her Fae seem more like Japanese Anime’ fairies with long pointed ears, long tails and dragonfly wings with beautiful human bodies, including fangs than the more traditional elves and fae from works like Tolkien and Shadow Run.
As for the plot?
This is a “coming of age” story, or maybe more accurately described as a “rites of passage” story, about a Girl, living in one of the walled fortresses. She was an orphan, left on the steps for a cleric who raised her then sent to “the academy” to learn the skills needed to be a “cleric” and fight demons. This particular Fae, Rae Wilder, lives life as an outsider looking in, with few friends. She likes to push the boundaries which lead her to running outside of the fence and finding trouble. It turns out the Clerics that are so revered aren’t exactly the nicest people. Illusions shattered, she has to flee the very clerics that are training her in fear for her life when she’s helped by a Fae and learns that she herself is “Fae.”
Of course the relationship doesn’t end there. The Faery is some how Bound to Wilder and vice versa. On the way home, she meets a vampire and yes, romance develops.
Now I’ve heard the criticism about how this or that work is so much like “Twilight” but I’d like to point out that that love triangle of epic and biblical purportions is nothing new, even when it showed up in the Twilight series. Ever read stories of the Greek gods? Abraham, Sarah and Hagar? Sampson and Delilah? Helen of troy married to a Greek king only to have her heart (and body) stolen away by Paris? Lancelot, Arthur and Guinevere? Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leya? It’s a common story theme because it’s a human theme. Even if it’s accurate, it’s not fair criticism because one could level the same critique at Twilight or a host of other popoular stories and even some considered classics if they wanted.
In fletcher’s hands, these common themes are told with uncommonly smooth writing. Her fiercely tribal Fae are interesting and colourful and there is so much more room for exploring the Human enclaves and the world that she created. Smoothly written prose may not be a vaccine for overdone themes and vampires, but I found this pleasantly different. Perhaps it is because I’m new to PNRs. You just can’t beat a well told story.
This was a wonderful coming of age tale with complicated relationships. Rae Wilder turns out to be a strong female character and independent thinker. Fletcher had a wonderful description of what fairy or vampire speed was like without hokey side effects.
Weaknesses: I wasn’t excited about how physical combat was described and resolved, and the description of magical combat seemed incomplete. This would be in keeping with a PNR where the focus is on relationships but parts of this seemed more like a UF (well, a post-apocalyptic-fantasy). Also, the only character we really got to know was Rae Wilder. Though we learned a lot about Brandon and Thomas, it seemed just the tip of the iceberg in both cases. I’d have also liked to see more of Alex and Rae’s other friends at the Academy or Conel, and the other fairies. Still, I’ll give fletcher a break because this was a world seen through Rae Wilder’s eyes and, likely more of a PNR than UF when it comes right down to it.
There were so many opportunities in this book for Fletcher to make a statement about inclusion, racial tension, and tolerance that simply went unnoticed. Perhaps that’s not what a PNR focuses on, but the opportunities were there.
The bottom line-this is a smooth, enjoyable read that is slightly edgy and appropriate for young adults. It includes a good old fashioned love triangle and some too familiar demons but the skill of the story teller outweighs those things.
Given all the problems and regrets with this story, one might think I didn’t like it, but, at some point I said “Screw all of that,” and let the story suck me in and placed my faith in the storyteller. Letting go of old anger and resentments brought relief and I enjoyed this.
There is plenty of violence here, but nothing unpalettable for most young adults and older. The story will probably appeal more to female readers than male readers with the soft combat scenes and the focus on romantic interventions. There are some common themes here that some consider "overdone." THough some things in this story may surprise you, there is plenty that will not, even when it's supposed to.
3 stars. Good read, enjoyable, UF/PNR.