I started reading this at the urging of Carrie Hope Fletcher. In every video she’s made about books, she’s said that this is the best book and that she loves it a lot (this might be a bit of an exaggeration…I’m using hyperbole as a literary device, k?). I thought, “Hm…okay. Why not?” (You can find her opinion about it here.)
I didn’t read the summary or know anything about it when I started. I think that’s why I stuck with it, to be honest.
The book takes place in an alternate universe. Somewhere in the future, there are clairvoyants, different types like oracles and card-readers (cartomancers), and they are the filth of society. The current British government, Scion, is clearing out all the voyants they can, but there are those in the syndicate which fight back. Paige Mahoney is one of them. She’s a part of a gang that earns money illegally on the black market. She has a special ability that allows her to be prized above almost all others and she ends up getting kidnapped for it.
She and a host of others are brought to a place known as Sheol I (yes, Samantha Shannon called it Hell I…I chuckled at this). It used to be Oxford, but now hosts the Rephaites, a sinister race who enslaves the voyants to fight the beasts known as the Emim. Each voyant has a keeper and Paige is chosen by Warden Arcturus, the blood-consort. She’s his first and only human. And it is under his keeping that she finds herself pushed to her limits.
Ms. Shannon throws you into this world without too much of an explanation. It’s in first person, so Paige talks to you as if you already know what she’s talking about. It was that tone that kept me reading. I wanted to know what these strange terms meant and why they have an oxygen bar and what was happening. Through Paige’s memories, you get a clearer picture of her universe and who she is.
I really enjoyed the writing style. And I really enjoyed Paige. Most books like this have a whiny narrator. I didn’t continue reading the Divergent series because I had a love/hate relationship with Tris. Same with The Hunger Games. I hate Katniss. She repulses me as a character. But Paige was likable and relatable in a way I hadn’t expected. She doesn’t like having her abilities and she really only wants people to like her for her humanity, not her special gift.
I liked Warden too. He hates his fellow Rephs, you can sense that from the beginning. A lot of the book is about he and Paige feeling each other out. Can they trust each other? Do they want to? It’s an interesting dance for both of them. She saves his life multiple times and he saves hers. The resulting romance wasn’t surprising, but it was surprising how long it took for her to be able to admit that she could trust him. It was the last line of the book.
I didn’t particularly care for the way she interwove the memories. It seemed abrupt at times, although you learn why towards the end. I didn’t like the villains, but then you aren’t supposed to. I haven’t sat up all night reading in a long time, so it was fun to pull an all-nighter to figure out what would happen (although, I won’t be doing it again anytime soon).
I wouldn’t call this a YA novel, precisely. It has the adventure-ish feel of one, but some of the content is for an older audience. I guess it would be a judgment call on the part of the reader. I really enjoyed it, though, and I’m finding that I don’t particularly enjoy most YA dystopian-esque novels. So categorize it as you will.
This is the first of seven projected novels and it only came out recently. August of 2013, I think. My hope is that Ms. Shannon writes as quickly as Nora Roberts and not at all like Patrick Rothfuss (for serious, WILL THE THIRD BOOK EVER COME OUT?!), but I guess we’ll see. I’m intrigued about the next book and what it will be about. The ending of this book wasn’t exactly a cliff-hanger, but it left me wanting to read what would happen next.