I'm having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. I had some difficulty with the writing style - vernacular and full of misspellings meant to signify the voice of our back-country, illiterate narrator. Typically I don't care for that style much, but excepting the wildly misspelled words ("explorayshun" and other words that should have ended with "ation" always snagged me and pulled me out of the flow), it was tolerable.
Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I was solidly pulled in by the lure of all those secrets that our protagonist, Todd, needed to discover. I thought his character development was well-handled, especially regarding learning about Viola. It's hard to imagine what it must be like to truly have never met a female before, and I kept expecting the author to slip up and betray that perspective by allowing Tood to know or understand something he shouldn't, but that never happened.
So I loved the story for the most part, the slow revelation of the extent of Todd's ignorance and what all that might imply, but I had real trouble with the ending. Two-thirds the way through the book, I was suspecting I might give it a 5-star rating (I do that so rarely), but I'm so baffled by the end, I just can't do it.
How did Aaron stay alive? This world seems to be solidly-based in science fiction, and though religious motivations are explained throughout, we're really never given a sense that the divine is active in the story until Aaron just won't/can't/doesn't die through the final battle. Todd and Viola's revelations about the meanings of life, death, and killing are really beautifully written, but also leave no clues to the existence of a divinity that is going to be involved in the story itself.
And I so badly wanted this story to be complete unto itself. I wanted Todd and Viola to have some sort of closure to their quest. Even knowing this is a trilogy, I had hoped for that. Having a straight-up cliffhanger as the conclusion of a novel is very unsatisfactory to me.
I'll read the next books, because I do want to know how the story ends, but I think I'll take a bit of a break first. For all the minor happy epiphanies we were given toward the end, there were so many things that went wrong and disappointments that I'm still not quite over it. (Yes, I'm a happy ending kind of girl. So it goes.)