I requested this book because I thought the technology premise sounded interesting. It reminded me of a cartoon I used to watch, and I wanted to see how the author would handle it. The answer is well. I enjoyed the novel’s world, and found the social and psychological aspects of mechcraft fascinating, especially in how it played out across the factions.
My notes include the line: This is a mad, violent, power rush of a book, but with real-people stories mixed in. It’s a pretty accurate description as between ritualized suicide (bad guy zealots) and deadly battles, it’s not for the weak-hearted. At the same time, the novel has depth. I connected with the characters very much, having moments of fear and frustration when they acted just as they should have but I could see how it would go wrong.
I had one major quibble, and it’s in the beginning setup, but maybe not what you think. The book starts with a sort of prologue in almost a noir detective narrative voice. It then rolls into a well-written close omniscient (not to be confused with head hopping where you can’t tell what point of view you’re in). Then, it stops dead for a chapter that is, in my opinion, a novel synopsis for an unwritten book 1. That’s my quibble. I didn’t find the back story uninteresting. If anything, I found there was a lot I would have enjoyed exploring. However, it’s full of critical information and relationships told in summary. I would have preferred to see what led up to this situation with Jake in detail. That said, the necessary data points are there. I was able to track everything that followed in part because of the back-story chapter, so I suppose it serves its purpose.
I enjoyed the relationships between Bex, Trent, and Jake a lot. They’re teens with some of the traditional social and hormonal pressures despite the very different context they live in. And rather than have it a battle to the death over the lone female, one is a platonic, brother/sister relationship. This is cool because that aspect is often left by the wayside when friendships are critical at any age. What makes it better is how they have falling outs that are then realistically resolved. The novel touches on self-identity, and being faced with responsibility and making scary decisions, in a good way. None of the coming-of-age aspects felt tacked on for extra credit but instead were integrated into the story.
I could go on, but bottom line is I found it a compelling novel with an interesting narrative approach that worked for me. There were a couple of small tech glosses and a few places where questions that seemed obvious to me weren’t asked, but it didn’t clash with the world enough to be implausible. The tech itself is fascinating, especially in first manifestation, while the advanced capabilities is part of a mystery yet to be solved. This is clearly going to be a series, because intriguing hints were dropped about a bigger picture we’ve yet to see. Oh, and supportive parents plus cooperation against a common foe? These are things I am happy to see.
P.S. I received this ARC through NetGalley in return for an honest review.