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Sour Fruit by Eli Allison
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it was amazing

Onion is snatched. She wakes up chained to an armpit of a river city, earmarked for a skin-trader called The Toymaker. Surrounded by a creeping rot she has just three days to escape before the sold sticker becomes a brand.

It's Onion's anger that propels us through the disorienting opening scenes, as Onion is thrown from one crisis to the next (think out of the frying pan into the fire and then into the volcano, followed possibly by the sun) and the reader tries to figure out what's going on. Onion's voice is hugely compelling: furiously teenagerish in its bravado without ever quite hiding the fact that there's a scared kid underneath.

But a book doesn't stand on one character alone, and thankfully we also have Rhea, appointed as Onion's unwilling jailer until she's handed over to the appropriately ominous-sounding Toymaker, to guide us. Ostensibly a frightened mouse, Rhea takes everything Onion throws at her and basically gets on with doing the best she can in the circumstances. It's as she leads Onion around the streets of Kingston that we really start to get a sense of the world behind the breakneck action - a world in which people who aren't deemed worthy of citizenship are dumped in flooded Kingston (upon Hull, for those wondering) and left to fend for themselves.

While the evolving relationship between Rhea and Onion is the true high point of the story (for me), Eli Allison has also done a magnificent job of reimagining Hull as a flooded disaster city in which kindness can still flourish. It's impossible to miss the fact that we're in a dystopia, but Onion's descriptions paint the crowded world in technicolour detail, while also making time for quiet beauty, like "The last of the light had turned the estuary bruise-purple, and the sky blood-red. If I squinted I could just make out the shadow of the bridge. I've always loved suspension bridges."

The writing is always interesting: characters don't jump, they "jack-in-the-box jump". The deckchair "looked like a debutante's fart could do it in" (Onion's voice is truly a joy!). And I'm delighted to know this is only the first book in a trilogy, because if the first book packs this much in, I can't wait to see what the next two will do.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
May 17, 2019 – Shelved

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