This book was much better than I expected it to be, in fact, I really liked it! Aguirre’s take on the dystopian world isn’t like anything I have yet to read and I feel like it’s the most realistic version out there. From what we gather from the first book, there was some kind of plague that wiped out the population, and now the survivors are surviving best they can through various degrees of successful social structures.
The main character, Deuce, is really interesting. She’s been raised to be a warrior and see emotions as weakness, but she can never really get away from her basic moral compass. Her new hunting partner, Fade, encourages her to ask questions about their underground society and if how they live is really right. Long story short they are exiled and sent up to the top, Luckily Fade lived there when he was little so he has a basic knowledge of how it works. Deuce’s introduction to the world “topside” is really fun, we get to see things we take for granted through her eyes and we see her struggle to adapt to life above ground.
What I think it the most fun though is watching her try to navigate personal relationships, she’s not good at it and is very naive when it comes to romance. She and Fade have a connection that she acknowledges but doesn’t understand, and I feel like their relationship is going to be a long and rocky road. Though we can’t really blame her, she grew up believing love was the ultimate weakness for a Huntress whose sole purpose was to fight for her people and protect them from the “Freaks,” mutated people who are cannibals.
Of course to throw a wrench into her stumbling attempts at personal relationships we are introduced to Stalker, a previous gang leader who took she and Fade into captivity, planned to kill Fade, and then use her as a “breeder.” I don’t hate him though, he agrees to leave it behind when he goes off with them in search of a haven, and like Deuce he was raised to be a fighter. They have a lot in common and she feels like he’s really the only person who understands the problems of adjusting. Stalker wants her in a romantic way though, completing the love triangle I have seen a lot of reviewers complain about. Honestly though, I don’t really think there is a triangle. She sees Stalker as a friend only, and is always more interested in Fade when she questions all the “feelings” she is just now starting to investigate. Fade does get really distant after Stalkers joining of the group though, and with Deuce’s emotional ineptitude nothing much happens.
While all of this is going on, they are slowly making their way North from NYC, and after some run-ins with the Freaks, who seem to be getting smarter, make it to a fort and find refuge. It’s all very I am Legend.
Book 2 starts off with summary of their adjustment period. All are seeming to do relatively well, and they all are being taught skills outside of fighting and survival and being schooled in everyday things like math and history. Deuce hates school and want to be fighting, but I think part of that is her general feeling of not belonging. She does get back into the fighting when Freak activity becomes worse, and it’s clear the mutants are becoming smarter and more civilized.
What I loved best about this book though was how much Deuce grew – or maybe evolved is a better word. She’s not like a lot of female protagonists, which I love, she’s basically already grown up – I forget she, Fade, Stalker, are so young (16/18) they feel more mature than some of the 25 year olds I know! She’s strong, and smart, and confident in herself, no matter what. We really see her beginning to open up to others though, and accept the “feelings” she shied away from in the first book with her foster parents and Fade. Both relationships I think are adorable and realistic, which is another thing we usually lack in YA books. A lot of time passes within these books so things don’t feel as rushed (kind of like THG in that sense).
As to the “love triangle” that some reviews still complained about, I still don’t really think it exists. Ya we all know Stalker has a thing for her, and yes she cares about him and he will probably always understand her in ways no one else can, but she is always clear that she will always choose Fade. She and Stalker are too much alike (which she mentions herself) and Fade brings out the compassion and “normal girl” in her, which if she is ever going to love beyond being a warrior she needs. Poor Fade though, he has so many emotional scars and after the traumatizing event he goes through, which would break pretty much anyone, he again looses all faith in himself and his relationship with Deuce. I’m hoping in the last book we see him really come into his own and accept his dark past and move on with the hope Deuce provides.
I’m really interested to see what’s going to happen with the relationship with the Freaks though, they are becoming too human, which I think is going to raise a lot of ethical questions from Deuce. Maybe there will be a human/Freak treaty?
I literally just finished this book, and all I have to say is Wow!
Well, obviously that’s not all I have to say, but I loved it, and usually the last book in the series is not my favorite, but this one certainly is! So many awesome things happened. I guess I’ll start with the Freaks/mutants – I was basically right, they make an alliance, but the route taken to get there was super cool. Basically as the mutants grew and remembered more and learned how to be more civilized the younger generations turned against the older ones and sought out Deuce and her army as allies against the ruthless mutants who wanted only to exterminate the humans. The historian in me can’t help but relate this response to those of social movements like that of the sixties and a lot of the changing global climate now.
Deuce, she’s such an amazing character, and she grew so much in this last book. She finally accepted herself with all her weaknesses and strengths. With this last installment she accepts everything she learned from all the different settlements she lived in, and chooses which lessons she wants as her defining features. She gives up her identity as a huntress and becomes Deuce, a fearless yet reluctant leader who is simply trying to make a better life for those she has come to love.
Speaking of the love thing, she and Fade are great, they have been throughout the series but both of them have grown up so much that they finally become one unit in this book. And ya, I know they are only 17/19 – but seriously after all they have been through they have the maturity level of late 20 somethings if not older. I was really sad when Stalker dies though, they were all finally getting along and then he goes and dies. I wasn’t surprised though, especially since he went out a hero, I fell like that’s the only way he felt he could redeem himself, and he never abandoned the warrior identity like Deuce did – and she repeatedly mentioned that with being a warrior came a short life span. While the personal relationships, especially between she and Fade played significant roles in the story, I never felt like I was reading a love story and that is definitely a positive for me.
I think this series is so unique in the post-apocalyptic books that are out there, that I have read at least, and I think the moral and personal identity issues it brings up are poignant and something that everyone goes through on a daily basis. Overall, it was just awesome and you should read it.