A Gentle Tyranny

Author: Jess Corban

Series: Nede Rising #1

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After a slow start, this turned out to be a story that I really enjoyed and can’t wait to see what comes next.

A new look at the popular YA Dystopian genre that so many readers love. A Gentle Tyranny sets up in the world of Nede where women have taken over and have “Gentled” the men. It has taken years of research and testing to be able to tame these men and set up a new hierarchy that on the outside seems tame, but on the inside, nothing is as it first seems. Raina Pierce is seventeen and has been selected to compete for the apprenticeship of becoming the Matriarch of Nede. Her grandmother currently holds the position leading some to believe that Raina is the obvious choice. The trials she must go through show Raina that all that she learned growing up was only part of the story. The world is not what she expected and not so gentle after all. Will she be selected to take over and make the changes so desperately needed? Or will she even be alive to see who wins?

A Gentle Tyranny started really slow; I almost gave up on it but am glad I stuck with the story. It was hard to picture the new world and connecting with these characters was difficult. In any new series, especially a dystopian such as this, the world building takes time.  About halfway through, things started to pick up and catch my attention. Once I felt the connection with the characters, I was more invested in the story and couldn’t wait to see how it played out. I really enjoyed Raina in the forest and her interaction with the men, so different from what she was led to believe.

As a debut novel, Jess Corban finally found her footing and took off. While this isn’t my favorite of the year, I will definitely be giving the next in the series a chance. Hopefully now that the world is built, the pace will be quick and the enticing characters will continue to engage the readers. I recommend this to fans of dystopian that are willing to be patient and let the story go where it will and be happy with the payout at the end.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of The Hunger Games will not want to miss this prequel that will have readers view President Snow in a new way you never thought possible!

The Hunger Games is about to have its tenth game and eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is getting ready to be one of the first mentors the games have ever had. His family has fallen on hard times and it is up to him to repair the powerful Snow name and prove they will come out on top. The odds are not in his favor as he is given the assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest assignment he could have gotten. If he is able to help her succeed and win the games, he will no longer be looked down upon and be able to resume the high status his family has always held. If she fails so does he. It doesn’t take long though for him to develop feelings for her making his job that much harder.

Fans of The Hunger Games will not want to miss this newest addition. I picked it up knowing there was no way I would ever feel any empathy for President Snow, the villain of the first three books. Within the first few chapters, I forgot to look at him in that way and was wrapped up in this story and how a young Snow developed into the foul, loathsome dictator we know from the series. Suzanne Collins did an outstanding job turning this character around for us and making him be seen in a whole new light. So many little references to the trilogy are tied in here and each time I came to a page with these I would find myself smiling. We find out the origin of the song Katniss sings to Rue and the song she sings in MockingJay. These instances were some of my favorites. If you pay close attention to names throughout, you will be able to connect them to descendants later on in the story. So much is tied while it is its own story. If you’ve read The Hunger Games, you are probably like me in thinking there is no way you could every feel anything other than hatred for the character of Snow. Don’t be surprised when you walk away shaking your head at how wrong you were. The book read quickly and was thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend this one to all readers that have read The Hunger Games and want a look into the origin of Snow and so much more.

The Hive Queen

Author: Robin Kirk

Series: Bond Trilogy #2

Publisher: Blue Crow Books

Release Date: August 29, 2020

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark apocalyptic thriller that will leave readers transported to a completely different world and a story like none they’ve ever read before.

The Weave has been destroyed as Fir and his brothers escape to the east to find a land of freedom. Fir searches for the Master of men, a fabled warrior who promises freedom to men from the Weave. On their way, they find more trouble than they thought possible. The Hive Queen, Odide, brings Fir and his brothers into her hive and quickly bespells him to betray his brothers and risk all their lives in the process and almost forget the love he had for Dinitra. Now he is faced with a choice, loyalty to his brothers, allegiance to the Hive Queen, or follow his heart and love for Dinitra. Between the Hive and the Master, Fir is faced with the hardest decisions he has ever had to make, and nothing has prepared him for what is yet to come.

For me, The Bond lacked world building and character connections. Just when I felt I was connecting to the characters by the end of the book, my main protagonist is changed in The Hive Queen and I have to start from the beginning to make the character connection and feeling myself firmly in this world. It isn’t something that was ever achieved for me. I lacked a real connection with Fir, I expected to pick up this book and continue with Dinitra, 12, and their story; instead, they aren’t even mentioned until the last third or so of the book. I was really hoping to connect and enjoy this story more, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While I think Science Fiction lovers will enjoy this story much more than I did, it isn’t a story for everyone. I know the first one was compared to The Hunger Games, and I can see that in a way, but not as deep as the connection could have been. I did enjoy the devious game the Hive Queen herself was playing throughout and the way Fir is able to reconnect with Dinitra, those were the redemptive qualities for me. Not enough to make me want to read again but I was able to finish the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Bond

Author: Robin Kirk

Series: Bond Trilogy #1

Publisher: Goldenjay Books

Release Date: November 30, 2019

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark, apocalyptic thriller that will leave readers with questions but wanting more after the last page is turned.

In a world where males are obsolete and women are all that are known, females have been equipped with enhanced gifts engineered by a group called Sowers and the Weave. Dinitra waits to find out her purpose with the other girls when they turn sixteen. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the Sowers make mistakes. The Weave is under scrutiny and a group of resistance and rebels are planning to attack with their own breed of humans they created, including males. Dinitra gets her assignment and is sent far away to a group she never thought she would be with and finds out secrets of the Weave and herself that could change everything.

The Bond definitely did not start or end the way I expected. The start was slow and then didn’t seem to mesh with the middle or end very well. I had a hard time with this one, the world building wasn’t really there for me. This is set in an apocalyptic future and no matter how hard I tried, I could not envision what was happening. I needed about a hundred more pages of well-enhanced detail for who these people were, what has happened in history to lead to this point, and where the story is heading. Even though this is labeled a YA, I have a hard time recommending it for that age group because of some of the themes throughout. If I had a hard time following, I’m guessing young readers will as well. By the end, the story did pull me in a little more and I enjoyed the bond between Dinitra and 12, even if the set up to that point was little off. Dinitra did grow a tremendous amount as a protagonist from start to finish; at the beginning I saw her as weak, unskilled and pretty hopeless for what the set up was going for, but by the end she is one of the strongest around and able to better carry the story. I’m still a little unsure of where it is all headed but will follow up with the next in the series to see if I can better connect with the characters and the story. I do think this story will be enjoyable for lovers of Dystopian and Science Fiction.  If that is not one of your favorite genres, this one isn’t for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Insurrection

InsurrectionAuthor: Chris Babu

Series: The Initiation #3

Publisher: Permuted Press

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the series draws to a close, a new chapter begins!

Drayden, Catrice, Charlie, and Sidney are still shocked about learning the secrets of the Bureau and New America upon arriving in Boston. Now they must undertake the dangerous mission of returning to New America when they were never expected to survive. Even though they beat the Guardians to get to Boston, they are still an ever-present danger that is lurking outside the walls. They realize that they need leverage and decide that an acquaintance from their previous journey will hopefully provide the help. As the friends travel to New America, they begin to see that even though there are people outside the walls, people are connected in ways they didn’t know. One thing they do know is that they wickedness of the bureau must be stopped. A revolution is going to occur and they will have to be the catalyst to bring it forward.

I’ve enjoyed reading this series. There are a multitude of dystopian novels available now and it’s fun when a series finally piques my interest. Like many others, it is set in the United States after some apocalyptic event (in this case the aero flu known as the confluence) and depicts life after the event, usually in some type of totalitarian government arrangement disguised as democracy. What I enjoyed about this book was how a group of teenagers continued to outmaneuver a group that had controlled the masses for decades. And on top of that, they have regular teenage problems. Drayden continues to find himself in the love triangle between Catrice and Sidney, although this book finally gets that set straight. Feelings of insecurity bleed through the pages for each of the characters. And, of course, masks of some of the characters are revealed to show their true motives. Drayden must face his nemesis, both mentally and physically. In the end, I think many readers will enjoy the conclusion to the series.

This is the third and final in the series. I highly recommend that start at the beginning and not try to pick up this one first. There is also some foul language throughout that could have easily been left out or replaced with dystopian slang as is part of the case, but not fully.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Emergency Skin

Emergency skinAuthor: N.K. Jemisin

Series: Forward Collection #3

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Release Date: September 17, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

What if everything you knew about Earth was a lie?

Several years ago, the founders of a new colony left Earth to form a new civilization. Earth, now known as Tellus, was overpopulated, rivers had run dry, ice caps had melted, and entire cities were lost.  Not everyone could come, so a few thousand were chosen and left to form a new world while leaving everyone else behind to perish.  Now there is need for some cultures from Tellus and a brave individual has volunteered for the effort.  The founders have placed their consciousness along with him so that he can have access to knowledge that may be necessary.  Also packed is an emergency skin that can be used in an emergency, but it will not be needed.  Once the samples have been picked up and returned, the hero will be awarded a beautiful new skin.  But what’s that?  Tellus appears to be inhabited?  This can’t be.  There should be no one here.  What happened after we left?

This was an intriguing read as it was a one side conversation for most of the book. The Founders  consciousness  dictate the conversation with the volunteer.  As questions are asked, the Founders respond in different tones to their mood.  It is pretty easy to determine what the questions where, but it gets hilarious when the humans begin talking to the volunteer and the Founders respond.  Aside from that, the story of how Earth rebuilt civilization was really interesting and worth reading.  I would love to see more of this story and will be picking up some books by this author.

Ark

ArkAuthor: Veronica Roth

Series: Forward Collection #1

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Release Date: September 17, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The start of this series already has me hooked!

Earth as we know it is coming to an end. A five mile wide meteor was discovered decades ago and its eventual trajectory will collide directly with Earth.  When it does, it will shred the atmosphere and completely obliterate an area the size of the United States on impact.  The next few days after impact, all life on earth will perish.  Suddenly borders didn’t matter anymore because everyone was an earthling.  A new location for the next Earth has been found and the planet’s inhabitants have been evacuated on airships.  Even though most on board won’t live to see the new colony, their children will.  Those left no family that have a master in science degree are given the opportunity to stay behind and categorize as many samples of species on current Earth to bring to the new Earth in the Ark.  Then days before the meteor impact, they too will be evacuated.  But not everyone has a reason to leave.

This new series has me hooked. Six well known authors are putting together a series that centers around a common theme, but aren’t necessarily tied together.  Roth is such a master at building dystopian worlds that this come across naturally.  Samantha is the main character and has led a rough life with the death of her parents.  She has no one left and as a horticulturalist is given the opportunity to stay behind and categorize samples of plant life.  I loved how she was able to find new life for herself in the death of her planet.  I can tell that I’m going to want more from each of these stories instead of the snippets in time that readers are provided.  Hopefully this project will be granted a continuance.  If you love a good futurist science fiction story, then you will love this series too!

 

After the Flood

after the flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Unique take on dystopian literature that is not as washed up as the title suggests.

 Not far into the future, climate change has wreaked havoc on the planet.  Multiple floods have occurred that has raised the ocean water level to new elevations.  Now there are only a handful of land ports that used to be mountain ranges including the Rockies and Andes.  Life has taken a new approach for everyone as governments began to be overthrown and new colonies were formed.  Eventually raiders became prominent throughout the globe as super powers.  For Myra and her daughter Row, life has become a means of survival every day.  They work to catch fish in order to barter for other supplies they need.  Myra still lives in defeat after her husband left her and took their oldest daughter Row.  In a life-threatening situation, Myra learns that Row is still alive in a colony in the north.  Her boat will never make it, but she manages to join up with a larger crew in hopes of heading to the colony to regain the daughter she lost and reunite her family.

 This book made me think about Water World as the majority of the population now live on ships that sail from port to port.  It is a new twist on dystopian literature mixed with some pirates.  The synopsis of the book only covers about the first three chapters or about 30 pages, leaving almost 400 pages of unchartered territory for the ready to uncover.  I enjoyed the story development that continued throughout the book as well as the author’s ability to create descriptive scenery.  There was plenty of tension that developed between the characters and the author managed to end the chapters with just the right amount to make me start the next chapter so that I could find out what happened, which caused a couple of later nights than I normally have.  My one complaint is that there was about 375 pages of buildup that just played out the finale in only 40 pages.  It just felt rushed after having this incredible journey.  There is also some foul language throughout the book as well as some fairly descriptive sex scenes that will be more appropriate for a mature audience.

 I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Rule of Capture

Rule of CaptureAuthor: Christopher Brown

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Interesting concept of a dystopian America given the current political climate.

America is on the brink of a full civil war.  Climate change has caused drought conditions in the northern part of the countries and forced most of the population south.  A war with China has devasted the country and brought fallout zones off the coast of Texas as well as several other areas.  The current president trying to hold onto power and once the flood zones of coastal Texas became catastrophic, he declared martial law.  Now justice has been suspended.  There are still courts, but they must answer to a higher power rather than being impartial.  Anyone suspected of being a rebel to the cause is now brought before the court for a quick trial often leading them to exile or death.

Donny Kimoe still believes in justice.  He used to work for the US attorney’s office to put away said criminals, but he realized that the system was broken and decided to change sides and defends them.  His newest client Xelina Rocafuerte is a filmmaker for propaganda materials but witnesses the death of an opposition leader.  As the court tries to silence her for good, Donny must exhaust every option that he has to try to have her released.  But this uphill battle has consequences that could lead to Donny’s demise as well.

This book definitely grabbed my attention based on the current political and because it is set in Texas, my home state.  It seems crazy to think that the entire judicial system could be turned in a manner that people are guilty until proven innocent, but then again, maybe it is not so farfetched.  With stronger hurricanes and heavy flooding, it’s not difficult to picture the climate change indicated in the book.  I had a love/hate relationship with Donny.  Loved that he fought for the underdog, hated his methods and habits.  Did remind me a little of Better Call Saul, but just wanted him to be more of an up and up guy.  I liked Xelina immediately.  Her attitude and demeaner fit right in with my perspective of her.  I also enjoyed seeing how the author broke the county apart based on current events.  If you enjoy this type of novel, you will likely love this one as well.

There is a lot of foul language throughout the book as well as some graphic violence that makes is suitable for a mature audience.

The Line Between

the line betweenAuthor: Tosca Lee

Publisher: Howard Books

Release Date: January 29, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In one of the most intense and believable thrillers I have ever read, Tosca Lee takes readers on a journey they will never forget in a story they will beg for more before the last page is turned!

After spending most of her life in a doomsday cult called New Earth, Wynter Roth is cast out with nowhere to turn. An old family friend takes her in and she learns how to deal in the real world. Pretty soon, all of the cults predictions of the horrible things destined to happen in the world start to come true. Wynter tries to figure out how much of this they knew about and how much of it might be because of New Earth and its leader, Magnus. One night, Wynter’s sister shows up and gives her medical samples that are a key to understanding the sickness ravaging the country. Power across the country is starting to go out spreading panic with every passing hour. Wynter must get the samples to Colorado to a lab ready to help. In a world going mad it is hard to know who to trust.  With hesitation, she receives help from a former military man, Chase Miller. At first, she doesn’t understand his motivation to help her but embraces the only help she has before time runs out.

In all the years I’ve been reading, I don’t know that I have ever been able to pinpoint my number one book for the year this early. Now something could come along later to snag that spot, but it would have to be out of this world good. I have always been a fan of Tosca Lee but this one right here is by far the best I have read, (and that’s saying a lot because her last two books The Progeny and First Born were my top books of their release years) I didn’t think anything would top Progeny, and it is still one of my favorite reads. The Line Between just has something about it that pulled me in and refused to let go until the final page, and now I’m chomping at the bit waiting for the sequel to come out. The characters, especially Wynter, were so believable and well fleshed out that I pictured each scene as though I was right there with them. Although it isn’t very conventional, I found the back and forth timeline to work very well for this story.  Seeing what happened to Wynter during the time she was with the cult and how that has affected her now with how she sees the world and everyone in it worked this way. If it had been a straight timeline, I think some of the story would have been lost and not connected well. The fact that everything talked about in this book could actually happen is a little scary and shows how well Lee did her research and poured her heart into this book. If you have never read anything by Tosca Lee you are sorely missing out.  She is solidified herself as one of my very favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what comes next. I recommend this book to fans of Dystopian thrillers that are ready for a thrill ride they won’t soon forget.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.