While I didn't personally like this book, I think others will. The book has its weaknesses as well as its strengths. My feelings about this book mainly come from certain prejudices I've developed in the consumption of fiction:
1. If an author uses alternative grammar and spelling, it should be done well enough to be barely noticeable.
2. Following the hero's journey structure exactly makes a story's outcome eye-rollingly predictable.
3. The characters should be likeable.
4. Copying themes of current popular fiction is annoying.
5. Constant action and peril is tiresome.
The story is set in a far future post-apocalyptic world. Fraternal twins Saba and Lugh and their sister Emmi live in a secluded desert area. Lugh is kidnapped, and a constantly perilous journey ensues to rescue him. Of course, friends and enemies are gathered along the way, and the journey is far from easy.
Immediately, the reader will notice the author's alternative spelling and grammar. Someone once said to me that the only authors they'd ever read who do this well are Mark Twain and Elmore Leonard. I'd also say that Cormac McCarthy succeeds at this. However, it didn't work here. I assume that the reason for the lack of quotation marks, shortening of words, and misspelling of words is to punctuate the narrator's illiteracy and colloquial speech. However, I kept questioning why it is, if she eventually became literate enough to write a book with complicated words that are spelled correctly, that she misspells easy words like "been" as "bin". It's certainly not to convey the way that the character is pronouncing the word since both versions are pronounced the same. There's also no reason for the author to drop the "g" from words ending in "ing" since I would be reading it that way anyway based on the way the character is talking. I think the alternative grammar and spelling could have worked with a little tweaking, but I was, unfortunately, still noticing it until the very end.
One thing that I do like about the story is that the author deviates somewhat from the hero's journey model. You quickly realize at the beginning that it will be impossible for them to ever return home, so there's no definite idea of where their journey will finally end. Also, rescues from enemies never really seem final. Who lives and who dies isn't sure. There's not a clear determination of what the final "prize" will be at the end of the book. Sure, Saba will *find* Lugh. Otherwise, what's the point of the journey? But will they reach him in time to save his life? Will the rescue ultimately be a successful one? Will there be some other "prize" that she takes home? And where is home? Will Saba really change at all?
And, yes, Saba really does need to change. She only seems to care about her twin brother. Otherwise, she's horrible and hateful to everyone around her. I didn't find it very believable that such a hateful person could ultimately manage to gather a group of 7 people willing to risk their lives to attempt her brother's rescue. The author attempts to explain it by showing that the
various party members felt that they owed her (or someone else in the group) their life. I'm still not convinced.
One component of this book which will probably attract readers is the death games that Saba finds herself forced to compete in to stay alive. With the popularity of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, I'm sure we'll be seeing more fight-to-the-death survival games in YA fiction. However, it feels to me like cheating to piggyback off of popular fiction themes in order to secure the popularity of your own book, but I suppose it works, so authors will continue to do it until everyone's sick of the genre.
From the beginning of this book, there seems to be nearly non-stop action. If you enjoy non-stop action and constant peril with outcomes that aren't as easy as initially expected, then this is the book for you. Of course, the characters can't slow down if they've got a rescue deadline looming over their heads. Of course, there's going to be non-stop action. Of course, getting from point A to point B with no hardships whatsoever would make for a very short and boring book. However, I personally find non-stop action and peril to be stressful and eventually boring. But that's just me.
Most readers will probably like this book more than I did. I tend to find myself not liking most perilous journey stories. I would say that most people would give this book 4 stars while I give it only 3 because of my own silly little prejudices. It is a book that could potentially be unputdownable for people who don't grow as weary of constant action as I do. I don't really see why this would be a successful series with such an unlikeable main character. I suppose that, for a prequel or sequel, the supposedly handsome Jack or Lugh might make likeable characters. Perhaps they'll bring some female readers back to endure more of Saba's tongue lashings.