This book was reviewed for the San Francisco and Seattle Book Reviews & Netgalley
Vic James has woven a vision of a dystopic alter-earth where certain people, known as Equals or the Skilled, have magical abilities. In some countries, the Equals rule to the exclusion of others. Great Britain is one such country.
Luke Hadley and his family are preparing to enter their Slavedays a ten year period of enforced servitude all commoners must endure. His elder sister, Abi, has worked hard to get all of her family assigned to serve at Kyneston, the home of the Jardines, the Equal Founding Family. Unfortunately, things don’t work out as planned, and Luke alone is sent to the slavetown of Millmoor. Shrouded in a miasma of pollution and thunderous with the noises of industry, Millmoor is a harsh place that ages people before their time.
At first desperate to rejoin his family, Luke ends up finding friends and a purpose at Millmoor. Meanwhile, Abi and the rest of the family get settled at Kyneston, and becoming attached to various Jardines. Abi finds herself falling for Jenner, the sole Skilless Jardine. Daisy, her young sister, has been given the task of caring for Gavar Jardine’s illegitimate daughter, Libby. Over time, Daisy becomes fiercely attached to both Gavar and Libby. And brewing under both Millmoor and Kyneston are plots to shatter the nation, and topple regimes. It’s more than just the commoners who are held fast by chains of custom and fate. The bonds may be fancier, but the Equals as a whole are captives just as much.
I devoured this book. James did a marvelous job of making you both despise and love the Jardines, especially Gavar, and many of the other Skilled as well. They really aren’t what they seem at first, at least the brothers. It becomes easy to see how they have been shaped by their father, and by their own relative Skill, or lack thereof. It’s equally easy to fall in love with Reni, ‘rhymes with genie’, the young girl who befriends Luke and introduces him to the Doc, and the rest of the ‘games’ group. I can’t wait til the next in the series comes out!
????? Highly recommended, especially if you enjoy dystopic fantasy.