3.5 out of 5 solid stars
This is a dual POV dystopian. Aria lives in the “pods” – huge domed habitats that are very futuristic, thanks to the Realms. Like Ready Player One’s Oasis, the Realms is an internet based virtual reality, but it’s more mobile – you actually walk around inside the habitat, and you are in the Realms, where this uplinked reality overlays what you are looking at and makes it cool. And you need that, because the pods are not cool. Everything in the pods is grey and boring, very static and plain so that the Realms can easily distort them. This also means that almost every second of your life is recorded. The reason for the move into the pods is because the outside world has become unlivable – toxins and diseases wreak havoc, cannibals, and horrible aether storms that rain down electricity and destruction.
On the outside are the “savages”, or so the pod-dwellers call them, the people who remained outside the pods in tribes. They are hardier and survive most of the diseases, but they still contract them, and they are at more danger from the aether storms. They don’t have the same tech and medical knowledge as the pods. Peregrine, or Perry, is the younger brother of the Blood Lord of the Tides tribe. He is unique in that he is marked by two super-senses – he is a Scire, or someone with a super sensitive nose, and a Seer. He can smell emotions as well as minute things about his surroundings. Even this Seer sense is unusual, as most Seers have amazing eyesight, but he can see in the dark as well as the day. His brother has lost his wife, and the tribe’s territory is running low on game. There are alsomore storms than there used to be, and they’re more dangerous than ever. Perry wants the tribe to move and find somewhere safer. But for that to happen, Perry would have to defeat his brother and become Blood Lord.
Of course, if our two main characters don’t meet, there’s no story… Aria’s mother Lumina is a scientist and moved to another pod to work on genetic research. Now that pod has gone radio silent. Aria hopes to find out what has happened from Soren, a boy whose father is head of security. He wants to sneak into a damaged pod just for funsies, and wreak a little havoc off camera. She wants to take this opportunity to wrangle some info from him. Well, Soren is more out of control than Aria was prepared for, and their fun has some terrible consequences. Perry just happened to be there at the time, looking for medicine, and the two are thrown together.
I really loved the way this started out. I hate to use the term “typical YA” because though every POV (YA is not a genre, it’s a POV) has its “typical books”, the “typical YA” phrase is especially demeaning because YA gets so much shit anyway. I will admit, I thought this would be “typical YA” – fast-paced, cheesy, a love triangle, shoddy worldbuilding with lotsa focus on the romance. Well I was surprised. At least for the first part – I loved that this really focuses on family and the different types of human groups – both are treated with respect by the author, but each group hates the other and sees them as inferior. Aria and Perry HATE each other in the beginning. I mean it’s good, name-calling, sneering, revulsion, don’t touch me, you’re gross, you have cooties kind of hate. And then it’s not. It’s like when there is a lull and a bit of safety, things change very quickly. It felt too quick to me, but I also liked the relationship…. until things change again. Perry seemed to keep flip flopping, and his flops didn’t make sense to me. I found that a little irritating.
The main thrust of the book is that Aria is suddenly outside of the pods … I don’t think this is a spoiler, I think that’s pretty much what you are expecting going in. There is the danger of the aether storms and their intensity. There is also the matter of Aria finding out what has happened to her mother. Perry also has an immediate threat to his family that he is trying to end. (Sorry, vagary, but spoilers.) They have to team up together to figure out what to do. In the meantime, there is action adventure, meetup with other groups characters and dangers, all very well-fleshed. All in all, a great, exciting dystopian with twists and turns and very well-written. My problem is Perry’s flip flopping, which I found irritating, and the sudden change in the relationship. However, I am already reading the next one.