YA Review: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis

Title: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis
Author: Roxy Eloise
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis

I love a good, original YA Dystopia, and this ticked all the boxes! A training centre for teenagers learning to be Enforcers of curfew and other laws, arranged marriages, strict relationship rules, games with life-changing rankings for the winning teams, friendships and romances, a mysterious commander with a grudge against the narrator, and a really interesting twist with a setup for book two.

Aurora has been raised in the Boulderfell Institute for Young Enforcers. Her only memories of a life before the institute are dreams of running with her friend Tayo, and being caught by Enforcers at the age of three. The book begins with her move from the children’s quarter to the adult section, following her sixteenth birthday. The author captures the fear and anxiety of the move – relatable for anyone who has changed schools or employers and worried about how they will survive in a new environment.

And Aurora is right to be anxious. The adult section brings the potential for an arranged engagement, a step up to dangerous competitive games, patrols in the outside world, and conflict with the commander of the Institute. It doesn’t take long for her to find herself in serious trouble, betrothed to a stranger, and targeted by older trainees who are threatened by her physical abilities. When she discovers someone from her past at the institute, everything she believes about herself is challenged, and she must decide who – and what – to believe.

I loved this book. I loved the story and the setup. I loved the characters, and Aurora in particular. I loved the people who supported her, however secretly, and I loved the twist at the end. This is the beginning of an excellent YA dystopian series, and I’m looking forward to book two!

Have you read The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis? What did you think of Aurora’s story?Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Exiled

Title: The Exiled
Author: Sarah Daniels
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: The Exiled

I absolutely loved The Stranded when I read an ARC last year, and waiting a whole year to read the sequel was tough! I rushed out and bought The Exiled on launch day, and jumped straight back in to the dystopian plot.

To recap: refugees from a war-ravaged Europe have been stuck at sea for more than forty years, confined to the cruise ships that were supposed to bring them to safety. A fractured US refuses permission for them to come ashore, fearful of the weaponised virus that might lie dormant in the bloodstream of everyone on board.

I don’t want to give too much away, but after the events of The Stranded, protagonist Esther’s hopes for a better life are fading. Leaving her cruise ship – the Arcadia – and making it to the Federated States was supposed to be her ticket to freedom, but the refugee camp isn’t where she hoped to end up. She’s exchanged shipboard anarchy for land-based oppression and gang rivalry, her parents and friends are missing, and she’s wanted by the Federated States.

Narration is shared between Esther, Nik (her sister’s former boyfriend), Meg (a girl from the Arcadia), and Janek, this book’s utterly delicious baddie. I thought Hadley, the sadistic administrator of the Arcadia in The Stranded was a fantastically nasty antagonist, but Janek is even better. Unlike Hadley, she’s in a position of power in the Federated States, with the means and motive to punish the refugees and prove her loyalty to the president. As Janek’s efforts provoke support for rebellion in the camp, Esther finds herself in even greater danger. Unsure of who she can trust, she is pushed into taking risks she has been desperately trying to avoid.

It’s another twisty plot, with heartbreak and bravery, adventure and betrayal, and a constant feeling of being on the edge of disaster. I absolutely loved it.

Have you read The Stranded and The Exiled? What did you think of the story? Did you enjoy reading the baddies’ chapters as much as the good guys? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Exiled cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Undying Tower

Title: The Undying Tower
Author: Melissa Welliver
Edition:
Paperback (Paper Orange Book Box)
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: The Undying Tower

I found this book spookily familiar (in a good way, I should stress!). When William Gibson described walking out of the cinema because Blade Runner looked too much like the inside of his own forehead, I thought I understood – and then I read The Undying Tower. Stop me when you see it: a girl in a dystopian future UK, who has no connection to the conflict between the authoritarian government and the rebels, is drawn into the fight against her will. There are public executions, rebels in hiding, and people risking their lives to fight back. There’s a camp full of teenagers being trained and tested, with strict sanctions for anyone breaking the rules. Our heroine attempts to find out what is going on behind the scenes, only to discover a truth so awful she decides to break out with her friends.

None of this is a criticism, at all! I really enjoyed The Undying Tower – the future-UK setting, the worldbuilding, the characters, and the plot. I enjoyed the parallels between Melissa Welliver’s book and my own YA series, and it was refreshing to read another author’s take on a dystopian future UK. The twist is different, and there’s a lot more riding on the escape attempt in The Undying Tower, which made the final chapters absolutely gripping. This is the first in a trilogy, and I enjoyed the way the ending flipped the story round, opening up interesting possibilities for the rest of the series.

This book has confirmed that I’m a fan of UK-based dystopian stories. If you enjoyed the Battle Ground Series, this would be a great next read.

Have you read The Undying Tower? What did you think of the British dystopian setting? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Undying Tower cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Thief and the Waste

Title: The Thief and the Waste
Author: Tanya Lee
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: The Thief and the Waste

We’re back in the post-collapse world of the The Wolf and the Rain, this time following Samarra and her friends as they set out from the Barrow, following the trail of the missing women. In the parallel narrative, we learn more about life in the South, and the connection between the two stories becomes clear. Understanding the stakes makes this book even more addictive than the first in the series, as Samarra and her team attempt to cross the dangerous wasteland that divides the Barrow from the walled cities of the South, and the children in the South graduate from their training and begin their adult lives.

Once again, the settings are beautifully drawn, pulling the reader into the story. The characters and their relationships develop as they navigate the dangers of the Waste, and the adult responsibilities of the South. There’s a constant sense of danger as the plot draws the two worlds together, and a spectacular reveal at the end that sets up an exciting story for the next book.

It’s not out yet, but I can’t wait. Tanya – we need the next installment!

Have you read The Thief and the Waste? What did you think of the dystopian setup? Did you enjoy the new elements of Samarra’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Thief and the Waste cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Wolf and the Rain

Title: The Wolf and the Rain
Author: Tanya Lee
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: The Wolf and the Rain

I need to tell you how much I loved this book. I loved the setup, I loved the protagonist, and I loved the settings. The author has created an entirely believable dystopian future. The dirty, dangerous North and the clinical, authoritarian South feel like essential characters in the story, and I was immediately hooked by the protagonist’s life as she tries to survive as a newcomer in the North.

There are two storylines woven together throughout the book, and the relationship between the protagonist scraping a living in the North, and the girl growing up in the regimented South, is not made clear. However, both stories are intriguing, and it is often a disappointment when the narrative switches back to the other location – a strength, not a weakness, as both stories held my attention.

Samarra is lucky. She’s found a place to sleep and a job as a courier for one of the most powerful families in the Barrow, the anarchic post-collapse city where she’s trying to earn a living and keep a low profile. Her job takes her all over the city, and she witnesses its violence and secrets, poverty and desperation. When she learns that the girl who used to have her job disappeared, and that she’s not the only young woman missing from the Barrow, Samarra is drawn into the dark side of a society where most people are happy to turn a blind eye and be thankful that they’ve made it through the day.

In the South, a group of children is training to be productive participants in their regimented society. Kept in dormitories and separated from any family, the children experience daily military-style physical drills combined with a rigid curriculum and strict rules. The contrast between the two settings, and their very different reactions to a climate disaster, keeps the pages turning. Both systems are understandable, and both have their advantages and dangers.

The action-packed, emotional conclusion provides a stepping off point for the sequel, and I can’t wait to dive in!

Have you read The Wolf and the Rain? What did you think of the dystopian setup? Did you enjoy Samarra’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Wolf and the Rain cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Girl Island

Title: Girl Island
Author: Kate Castle
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: Girl Island

Wow – this book is good! It’s a female take on Lord of the Flies with strong Yellowjackets vibes. With a smaller cast and a much more focused story than Yellowjackets, I found it more convincing as an exploration of inter-personal dynamics in an all-female group. Full disclosure: I went to a single-sex school in the 1990s, around the time the book is set, so I am very familiar with the power and personality clashes in an all-female environment. This book captures them perfectly.

Ellery is farm girl. She’s keeping her family’s struggling fruit farm running after the death of her father, supporting her mother and younger brother as they all take on the extra work to keep the business going. She’s also an athletics star, and British Under-18 Heptathlon champion. When her achievements win her a full scholarship to an exclusive private school, she reluctantly accepts the mid-term switch to being the new girl, the scholarship girl, and the student who goes home at night to her beloved farm with its mis-matched furniture and make-do-and-mend lifestyle.

The scholarship includes an all-expenses-paid trip to an elite sports camp in the Maldives, and her first experience of her new school is the flight to Male with her new PE teacher and seven of her classmates – two boys and five girls. It doesn’t take long for her to discover the rift between the popular girls with the good-looking boyfriends, and the more academic Delia Dawkes. And then there’s the awkward reunion with Skye, the ex-best friend she hasn’t seen for two years. Plenty of opportunity for inter-personal conflict.

Of course, the trip doesn’t go to plan. The island-hopper plan crashes, leaving the party a long way off course and marooned on a deserted island. Dawkes and Ellery focus on long-term survival, including keeping their injured teacher alive, while the popular girls are more concerned with power, and their place in the hierarchy of the group. It’s a recipe for conflict and disaster, and when the boys head off to swim to the neighbouring island, the female power-plays become more vicious, and more dangerous.

The author brilliantly captures the dynamics of an all-girl group. The popular girls are used to being at the top of the group hierarchy, but when they find themselves in a situation that requires a different set of skills, they are ready to fight to maintain power. Ellery and Dawkes, used to being on the sidelines of all-female interactions, find themselves offering the solutions the girls need, but meeting resistance as they challenge the established social structure. I was impressed by the portrayal of the popular girls before and after the departure of their boyfriends. While their priority is keeping their man and the associated status, they exhibit a particular set of behaviours, but in the absence of the boys, they become much more focused on their own roles in the group – and much more dangerous.

As the book progresses, and the girls remain stranded, the tension on the island increases. The power-plays become more extreme as the need for sustainable survival strategies becomes more apparent, and the group splits under the pressure. Ellery finds friendship as well as conflict, and it is wonderful to follow the positive relationships as they develop in spite of the danger. It’s an entirely believable story, and the narrator’s fear feels very real. There are deliberate nods to Lord of the Flies in the plot, but you don’t need to know the original story in order to appreciate this book.

Plenty of readers have asked how the Lord of the Flies scenario would change if the marooned children were girls, not boys. This book provides a highly plausible, equally disturbing answer. I loved it.

Have you read Girl Island? What did you think of Ellery’s experiences? Would you survive on Girl Island? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Girl Island cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Stranded

Title: The Stranded
Author: Sarah Daniels
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

Refugees from a war-ravaged Europe have been stuck at sea for more than forty years, confined to the cruise ships that were supposed to bring them to safety. A fractured US refuses permission for them to come ashore, fearful of the weaponised virus that might lie dormant in the bloodstream of everyone on board. On the Arcadia, desperate passengers live their lives in the ruins of ballrooms, crew areas, restaurants, and empty swimming pools. Rival gangs maintain a fragile truce, overseen by a sadistic administrator from the Federated States, and the current captain of the ship. Passengers fall in love, start families, and educate their children within sight of the shore, with no hope of reaching land. It’s a brilliant dystopian premise, and a gripping read.

The story follows Esther and Alex, teenage passengers who were born on the Arcadia, as they train to be medics. The top students in their class will be allowed to go ashore to complete their training and begin new lives. Esther and Alex are planning to marry on board and leave together, finally completing their families’ journeys across the Atlantic.

Esther’s older sister, May, is working towards her own escape, as a member of the military cadets. If she keeps out of trouble, she will be recruited into the on-shore military, and given the chance to make her own new life on land. But her friend Nik is part of the resistance, and while May tries hard to protect her family, it is only a matter of time until Esther and Alex find themselves tangled in gang rivalries and rebel plots – everything they need to avoid if they are going to make it off the boat.

Narration is shared between Esther, Nik, and Hadley – the deliciously nasty administrator who is desperate to impress his superiors enough to earn a placement on land. As Esther’s experiences develop her understanding of the politics of the Arcadia, the reader learns along with her, and the complexity and fragility of her position in shipboard society become dangerously clear.

As the story progresses and the plot twists kick in, we follow the narrators through acts of friendship and bravery, heartbreak, betrayal, and adventure. The action sequences are tightly written and exciting, and there are no guarantees of safety for any of the characters. Esther and Alex are respected for their medical knowledge, and it doesn’t take long for their skills to be in demand.

I loved everything about this book – the excellent dystopian premise, the characters and their relationships, and their adventures as they try to make sense of the events of the story. Hadley’s narration is deliciously nasty, Esther struggles with the path she must follow in order to leave ship life behind, and Nik is doing his best to maintain his precarious position on board while protecting the people he loves. The ending is a cliffhanger, and I’m looking forward to the next book. I’m hooked!

Good news – there’s now a review for the sequel, The Exiled, on the blog!

Have you read The Stranded? What did you think of the dystopian setting? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Four (Divergent #4)

Title: Four (Divergent #4)
Author: Veronica Roth
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

It’s been ages since I read the Divergent Trilogy – devoured it, in fact – but I never got round to reading Four. Following a recommendation from my YA-reading niece (thank you!), I finally completed the series – and I’m very pleased I did!

The final Divergent book contains four short stories, along with three pivotal scenes from the trilogy, all narrated by Four/Tobias. It’s a great insight into a favourite character’s perspective, feelings, and back story.

In ‘The Transfer’, Four tells the story of his Choosing Ceremony, and the home life that led him to transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless. His journey deliberately shadows Tris’s transfer in ‘Divergent’, but gives another perspective on why someone might leave their community to start a new life in another faction. It adds depth to his background and motivations, and provides new glimpses into the politics and dangers of life in Dauntless.

‘The Initiate’ develops the political insights as Four works to impress his instructors, hide his responses to the simulations, and find his place in his new faction. It’s another story that shadows Tris’s journey, while introducing political elements from her trilogy. Definitely a page-turner.

‘The Son’ explores Four’s inner conflicts as he navigates life in Dauntless while coming to terms with his own background. Turning away from his father, the leader of Abnegation, has consequences he hadn’t expected as Four repeatedly finds his loyalties challenged.

In ‘The Traitor’, Four’s experiences of the politics of Dauntless come together with his doubts about his loyalty and personal safety. We see his side of the developing relationship between Four and Tris, and witness the agonising choices he must make to protect the people he cares about.

In the three bonus scenes, it is a joy to see events from Divergent through Four’s eyes, and to read about his first impressions of Tris when she arrives in Dauntless to begin her training.

I’m so glad I read this book. Jumping back into the world of the Divergent trilogy was like meeting up with old friends, and the new perspective only added to the wonderful worldbuilding, and my sympathy and understanding of the characters.

Have you read Four? What did you think of Four’s side of the Divergent story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Break Out (Supernatural Prison #3)

Title: Break Out (Supernatural Prison #3)
Author: Aella Black
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

In book three of the Supernatural Prison series, Phoebe and Xander focus on uncovering the secrets of the organisation that locked them up for having superpowers – and on the origins of those powers.

Lansing Prison continues to be a cruel and dangerous place. Inmates with diverse superpowers fight each other in gladiatorial-style combat as their fellow prisoners cheer them on, encouraged by the warden and the guards. Xander finds himself trapped between the sadistic warden and his parents, who might have the power to get him out – if he can contact them. When Phoebe’s secret powers are revealed she must tread a careful line between keeping the warden happy, protecting her friends and family, and making sure she can live with her decisions.

Phoebe’s friends continue to provide the heart of this well-written series. Their relationships and loyalty to each other are inspiring, and it was a pleasure to pick up the book and find such sympathetic and rounded characters waiting. There is a romantic element to the story, but it is not the driving force of the plot. The strong friendships, and surprising betrayals, are essential to the reading experience. It’s a refreshing approach to writing a YA Dystopia, and I really enjoyed all the books in the series.

Have you read the Supernatural Prison series? What did you think of Phoebe’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Power Up (Supernatural Prison #2)

Title: Power Up (Supernatural Prison #2)
Author: Aella Black
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

In book two of the Supernatural Prison series, Phoebe, Xander, and their friends are picking up the pieces from the end of book one, and finding their feet in a new and dangerous environment.

Phoebe and her friends thought Leavenworth Prison was bad, but now they have to learn to survive in Lansing. Gone is the kind warden, access to the library, and protection from the most violent and deadly superpowers. Instead of keeping the teens with benign powers segregated from those whose powers can kill, all the teens with powers are locked up together following their evacuation from Leavenworth. The friendship group is splintered, new cellmates bring new threats, and a figure from Phoebe’s past complicates everything.

Regular testing of inmates’ powers at Leavenworth was particularly distressing for Phoebe, whose ability to come back to life was tested repeatedly by the doctors monitoring her abilities. At Lansing, it’s not the doctors killing her under laboratory conditions, but her fellow inmates in staged fights. The prisoners are paired up to pit their superpowers against each other – and when Phoebe is in the room, it’s a fight to the death. She quickly learns that a doctor inventing new methods of execution is nowhere near as traumatic as the threat of a violent death from someone she believes to be a friend, and that no relationship is the same after a murder – even if the victim has the power to recover.

While the cruelty of the superpowered fights is the driving force behind the story, Phoebe’s friendship group is the reason to keep reading. Once again, their interactions, personality clashes, and support for each other hooked me in and kept me engaged with the plot. Phoebe and Xander share the narration in alternating chapters, giving an insight into their feelings for each other, and a wider view of life in Lansing Prison. It’s an exciting story, with action and trauma neatly balanced with strong friendships and sympathetic characters.

Once again, the action builds towards the end of the book, and after the dramatic finale I moved straight on to book three. More great YA, with memorable characters, strong friendships prioritised over romance, and a well-paced plot.

Have you read Power Up? What did you think of Phoebe’s story? How do you fell about the characters’ lives at Lansing? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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