Saturday, June 4, 2011
by Ann Aguirre
Razorland, book one
WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE
In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.
As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning.
Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she's never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.
As Deuce's perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy... but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she's ever known. (description taken from Amazon.com)
Though I really enjoyed the concept and storyline of this book, I think that there are definitely stronger examples of the genre out there. This may be in part due to this being Ann Aguirre's debut YA novel...she may just not have quite hit her stride yet. I read her short story, Wild Magic, in the compilation, Corsets and Clockwork (see my review here), and LOVED it. It was one of my favorites, so I don't think that there is anything wrong with Ann's writing in general.
This was not by any means a bad book...just not strong in comparison to books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I will say that the worldbuilding that Aguirre does within the enclave is amazing. Deuce's world is fully realized and very, very interesting. It is only as she ventures out of her underground world that details start to fall apart. For instance, the tunnels are full of "freaks" - creatures that could be zombies, but really aren't. There is no real explanation for what they are, how they developed, or what their limitations might be...then they begin to change and things get even more hazy. There is no explanation for how power and running water still exist in a deserted city.
Some of this is due to the fact that this is the first book in a series. When book one ends, there are several major questions left unanswered. Deuce has only just begun to discover the outside world around her, so readers are also somewhat in the dark. It's just that as she discovers things, even the explanations sometimes are not enough...
I loved Deuce as a character, though. She was tough and conflicted and very, very interesting. I loved the way that she constantly questioned things, even if not always out loud. Deuce's moral compass rang fairly true, especially taken into the context of the dark world in which she was raised. Her friends in the enclave were all really well done. Fade was also a strong, multidimensional character. Stalker and Tegan, the two main characters that they meet aboveground are more stereotypical, but I think that may change in book two of the series, Outpost, coming fall 2012.
This was a short novel. I think that if Aguirre had fleshed somethings out a little more it could have been really great. I'm hoping that book two takes this interesting world and really makes it real.
Full disclosure: Audio book received to review for AudioFile magazine; Hardcover received to review for publisher
2011 Debut Author Challenge title
2011 Zombie Reading Challenge title