For Valencia Paine, the world is as small as her family’s estate. Confined to the grounds because of unrest from the human-animal hybrids whose labor runs the city, Valencia observes life in Sombria from the other side of a wrought-iron fence. Her father, a powerful scientist in Sombria’s popular—and oppressive—regime, claims it’s for her own protection. But Valencia isn’t content to stay cloistered inside a cold, lonely mansion, with only books for company. When she slips away and encounters Mateo, a mysterious stranger with ties to the city’s hybrids, she finds herself drawn into a life forbidden to her—and into a resistance movement that defies everything she thinks she knows. As her father tightens his control of her by arranging a marriage to Henri, a rising star in the regime, Valencia becomes more determined to discover the truth. Will her defiance change her—and her world—forever? With thrilling twists and romantic interludes, this fantasy is perfect for fans of Ransom Riggs and Marie Lu.
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What worked: Loved this new fantasy series by Marlene Perez. Think YA meets The Island of Dr. Moreau with a forbidden love story. In Sombria, the regime holds power over all including the hybrids who are are often treated with contempt and worse. Valencia knows her father has a part in creating hybrids but doesn't know the real extend of what goes behind the closed doors of his lab. Valencia has been sheltered but this doesn't stop the questions she has. She's determined, strong-willed, and courageous in facing down her father and others who try to hold the truth from her.
Mateo is the mysterious boy, Valencia feels a strong connection to. Their relationship grows even through his history is filled with secrets. Through Mateo, readers get glimpses of the world of the hybrids outside the walls of Sombria. The cruelty that is shown to them is shown in many scenes, especially one where a 'kralle' ball is fire bombed.
Henri isn't the stereotypical 'villain' but has his own secrets. I like how there's gray areas with not only his actions but others in this story as well. Readers see the extremes when Valencia is around him and his family.
The biggest character has to be the setting of Sombria. The world is shown in extreme contrasts. There's those who have favor in the regime, which includes Valencia's father, stepmother, and sister. Then there's those who live outside of the tower. These include the dreaded hybrids who were created during a plague by combining animal and human matter to save lives. They are shunned by those who didn't succumb to the plague. Perez starts the story right off by shown the brutality of the regime against the hybrids.
Gripping tale set in a fantasy world where a girl sets out to find the truth about herself no matter the cost.
2. YA meets The Island of Dr. Moreau