I have the ARC of this one, but it came out a couple of days ago (and the finished copy looks so pretty). The book pretty much gave me everything I expected it to give me; a tough heroine, a love story years in the making, adventure, some dystopian elements, and a lot of action! I have read some mixed reviews for this one, and I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I originally thought I would when I first saw the cover, but I have to disagree with all the mixed feelings. I loved it.
Rachel is the daughter of her city’s best courier (aka: package/message deliverer) who goes outside the protection of the city and ventures across dangerous lands to deliver things for the Commander. The Commander overrules a sexist, yet protected city. Girls are not allowed to go anywhere without their fathers/Protectors or their husbands. They are all expected and taught to be nothing less than obedient, submissive house maids who get auctioned off as wives at the age of 17. Rachel never seems quite capable of obedience.
Her father has trained her in weaponry, fighting skills, survival skills, and independence. She’s smart and generally knows when its acceptable for people to see the real her. Though, this all goes to the wayside when her father is more than a few weeks late in returning home after a carrier mission. The city declares him dead, and when the Commander reads his will, it is determined that Rachel’s new Protector is Logan, her father’s apprentice. And because the point of view shifts back and forth between Rachel and Logan, it is clear from the beginning that Logan is a great guy even though Rachel refuses to see his greatness. She does this because she announced her love for him a couple of years ago and he outright rejected her. Can you imagine how awkward it would be to find out that your new Protector is going to be the guy who rejected you romantically?
And to make matters worse, the Commander seems to think Rachel knows something about her father’s disappearance and he keeps a steady eye on her and Logan. Even though Rachel knows to fear the Commander, the man who gave the order to have Logan’s mother killed publicly for going to the market without a man to escort her (her husband had died), she still acts without thinking. She tries to escape her city because she knows there has to be a better explanation for why her father hadn’t returned. Too bad she gets caught.
The Commander then tells Rachel and Logan that he expects them to go on a journey to find the package Rachel’s father was supposed to return to him. But nothing is as it seems with the powerful Commander. There’s forced wedding ceremonies, creepy scenes in carriages with dead friends, plans gone awry, come communications with rebels, some sword fighting, and then Logan gets thrown in prison, while it’s up to Rachel to find and bring back the package, or Logan will die.
There’s torture, fighting to the death, tracking, inventions (Logan can make some pretty awesome stuff including handy tracking bracelets!), villages of people living outside the protection of Rachel’s city, hints of massive rebellions to come, and a giant, terrifying monster that lives outside the city’s walls and that can only be thwarted by the Commander. Apparently, humans dug too far into the earth for resources and unleashed this sort of dragon type creature that can breathe fire and kill thousands of people in a few heartbeats. For some reason, I imagined a giant dragon/bull combo. And Rachel, Logan, and some other friends along the way definitely have their fair share of encounters with the beast.
Poor Logan really gets the stuffing get kicked out of him in prison. He’s beaten to a bloody pulp. And other characters are really pushed to their limits. The commander pretty much turns decent human beings into raging murderers by holding on to their loved ones. Seriously. While in prison, Logan resided next to the fully pregnant wife of the tracker that went with Rachel to get the package. And it’s not like there was any preferential treatment to the shivering pregnant woman.
There’s science, engineering, mysterious packages, fascinating objects, plenty of weapons, hunting, and surviving! I have to talk about the romance. I loved the romance! It was just so awkward and awful in the beginning and I really felt bad for Rachel and the whole unrequited love thing. And then as it progressed, it became one of those slow-building yet inevitable romances (like Castle and Becket, or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, or Riley and Beck) and really aren’t those kind of romances the best? The ones you feel like you’ve earned the right to see happen and escalate because you’ve suffered along with the characters long enough.
I found the world so interesting too! It definitely had some modern day attributes mixed in with the prominent fantasy dragony feel. It was certainly a believable, yet scary society that existed in the confines of the protected city. Will there ever be a fantasy/dytopia about a protected society that has ladies in charge? Why do we always seem to get the short end of the stick in all these books? I also loved all the hints and foreshadow of a future rebellion. This definitely had me in the mindset of the first Hunger Games book –where you can’t necessarily see how desperate people are for rebellion, but it’s an aroma in the air –that is just so ready to spread.
I give this one a 10/10. And I highly look forward to anything else Redwine writes!