Thanks to Edward Aubry and Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Harrison and Dorothy are two of the very few who try to live in the aftermath of a bizarre melding of the present, the future and the magical. How the environment has been twisted, where all this tech junk came from and why the landscape is suddenly overrun by very real, very dangerous magical creatures are all a mystery as they try to survive the changes to their world. A voice on the radio gives them hope for the future as they make a terrifying trek across thousands of miles to what remains of Chicago…
I loved the dual POVs with Harrison and Dorothy. I thought their personalities complimented one another so that I never got bored or felt like I’d rather just follow one or the other. Their stats worked so well contrasting each other (like Harrison is an adult and Dorothy is 14) yet I never felt like one or the other character was contrived. Harrison and Dorothy were walking talking survivors of a very odd event and all they had to survive on is their bold thinking. What made them really work for me was that neither had the thought to kill another person – there were enough dangers in the world, what was left of humanity fighting one another never made the list. I adored this POV in the extreme! I love this kind of adventure, exploration story.
And the world building was excellent. Most of the story was the best kind of showing. You think a story is really good and satisfying then you read a book like Prelude to Mayhem where master story-showing is used and you realize this is how a story is meant to be told. Aubry missed one or two moments in the setup that became awkward to me (like when the future element being shown by Dorothy using the mapper but we’d already been told all about the future tech by Harrison – should have been flipped) but it only distracted me a little from the fascinating world. This same technique is used perfectly with Glimmer setting up John’s story about the tech south (one of my favorite parts of Dorothy’s story!) I liked how the world was twisted up, verdant green for miles broken up by random houses or strip malls, city centers with highways that just stop suddenly all with tech from some future date spread about like discarded junk. And the creatures… to rave too much would give away some of the best parts of the story… In fact I could have done with more creatures, even small, minor encounters to fully flesh out the world. These are minor complaints though as this totally unique world came to life through Harrison and Dorothy.
The plot was stellar too. The first 40% was some really great setup that opened the world to us and made us root for Harrison and Dorothy so that we’d follow them anywhere… I fell in love with Glimmer too and her Barbie wardrobe and I even started to feel a sisterly impatience yet care for John. The balance between the future tech story points and the magical creature story points was well done and I sat back for the wild ride, you are totally sucked in as a reader. At this point we get some really fascinating story developments… they aren’t answered by the end of the book but we make some headway toward solving them. I didn’t mind that either and it didn’t even feel like a cliffhanger so much as a natural place to leave off before we’d start on a different sort of journey with two people we really care about (really 4 people if you count Glimmer and Mitchell which I totally do!!) This series is totally about the journey. It’s not so much about traveling from point A to B which we do, do so much as the wild meetings, twists and turns and crazy happenings along the way.
*So why round my stars down to 4 instead of up to 5…? The end started to have some problems that were harder to overlook… Some of the logic of the city didn’t make sense to me, and while there is a strong conflict boost at the end the way it is resolved is rather dull (compared to the other plot points!). Also it’s rather obvious story wise why things turned out the way they did with Glimmer… It’s not that I hated the ending… I believe the next book will be very fascinating and will be well worth the read and this end was setting up for it. Thinking about this book as I write this review, I find myself changing my mind… I really am split evenly between 4 and 5 stars, but the characters and world are so stellar in this and so much of the plot really was exciting and grounded in human nature in a way I truly admire…so I’m rounding up!
BOTTOM LINE: Creative world with spot on characters equal a vital dystopian read…
4.5 stars rounded down then up to 5 stars, see explanation above*