An unmentioned number of years after a plague of unknown origins has decimated humanity, the human genome is in shambles. People continue dying off starting in their late teens, and those unfortunate enough not to be able to afford genetic modifications are referred to as “Lasters.” Those who can afford life-extending alterations are called “Splicers.” And then there are “True Born”--those born with a wide range of animal-like traits that make them somehow immune to the plague and, in some case, super-human in abilities.
The story is told entirely in first-person present-tense, from the POV of almost 18-year-old Lucy Fox—a wealthy girl with extremely powerful parents, who also happens to be the more reserved of a set of identical twins (originally conjoined at the toe). Lucy and her sister, Margot, have a semi-telepathic bond they’ve never told anyone about. So when Margot disappears, Lucy is the only one who knows how to find her. But Lucy’s talents are limited to her sheltered high-society upbringing, and their enigmatic new security team may be the girls’ only hope for long-term survival in a world poised between dying and “evolving.”
What I Liked:
The premise was intriguing enough to draw me in initially. It manages to resemble a sort of post-plague dystopian X-men, (but with more causative ambiguity.) As such, the action scenes and transformation-related instances were fairly cinematic and engaging.
I also have to give the writing credit—it’s difficult to pull off first-person present-tense without the artificial immediacy becoming a nagging irritant (in this reader’s opinion). The prose imparts a bleak, ethereal tone that suits the overall theme quite nicely.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
Unfortunately, readers may have some trouble forming emotional connectivity to most of the characters in this story. No one particularly stood out as likeable or sympathetic --though this may be related to how little background readers are given on anyone. (Little to no mention of Lucy’s personal interests, hobbies, desires for her future, or formative memories. Base backstory on Jared doesn’t appear until page 185, and even then the info divulged may not be enough for readers to root for him.) Lucy, our only point of view character, proves again and again to be whiney, slow on the uptake, and more of a liability than a help to most situations.
The insta-lust based romance between Lucy and Jared continued on to be unconvincingly lacking in emotional development, and the interactions between them at times bordered on romanticized abuse. Lots of the hero lording power over the heroine, general manhandling, continuous belittling disrespect… At one point he even grabs her hard enough that his nails make her bleed. (All this while the heroine remains a largely passive and reactionary without driving anything involving the plot.)
*Lesser-But-Related Complaint: Early on, Jared bestows on Lucy the aggravatingly unoriginal mock-endearment of “Princess.” This appeared often enough that it grated on my tolerance and hindered any remaining chance of me caring about him.
Lucy and Margot’s parents aren’t simply negligent as parents, they also function more like one-dimensionally self-serving plot devices. I had very little sense for them being real people—more like narcissistic and malignant human traffickers at the very top of the post-apocalyptic pay scale. The father, especially, executed logic-lacking choices often enough that it made little sense how he could have managed to maintain the level of power he supposedly possessed.
There was a lot of promising potential here, but answers to most questions are evidently being saved for later installments. I don’t recommend going into this first book expecting closure.
This may be an option for shapeshifter Urban Fantasy fans who prefer their worldbuilding spare, and their heroes on the sensual-yet-erratically-mean side.