Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Type: ARC, for DAC ARC tour
Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
I'm just going to start off by saying that this is not a dystopian.
Yes, yes, I know. I know that's what it's labeled. I know that's how it's been marketed. I know that people seem to think that, by virtue of this being set in the future of earth, that must be its classification. But nowhere in this did I find the telltale signs of a dystopia: a story that explores the effects of a cruel, totalitarian government and the various complexities and faults of human nature, as related to and reflected in society. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I wouldn't say it did either of those. It is a Sci-Fi, a bit of a post-apocalyptic, but not a dystopian.
Genre issues aside, I wasn't sure what I would think of this book. I'd seen such a wide range of reactions from numerous reviewers whose opinions I deeply respected. What seemed to be the most common determining factor was one that I had already seen before, in Divergent: the ability of the reader to suspend their disbelief, or ignore an almost complete lack of explanation. And as with Divergent, I side with those who could suspend their disbelief. No, we are never really told what in the world the Aether is, though it is utterly critical to the storyline. No, there is never a very detailed explanation of what occurred during "the Unity" and how they came to be where they are at the start of this story. But I enjoyed the plot, the writing, and most of all, the characters, enough to push aside my questions and just enjoy the ride.
I thought both the plot and the pacing were fantastic. The plot is stunningly unique, and considering how very difficult originality can be these days, I seriously respect Rossi for coming up with something as crazy and marvelous as all this. Virtual realms, tribes, mutants, a combination of incredibly advanced technology and tribes that had essentially reverted centuries. It was new and wonderful and I loved that. The pacing is steady and consistent; just enough action here, enough romance there, enough time for deep introspection, and off again. The pacing kept me essentially glued to my copy; if I'd had a day with nothing to do but lounge about and read, I'd have finished this in hours. Sadly, the world is not a wish-granting factory, and school frowned upon my desire to read this book in one sitting. Despite that, I still managed to finish the majority of this in under two days; I picked it up in every spare second. (Really, every spare second. I think my teacher death glare tally had reached about twenty when I decided to stop counting.)
Rossi's writing was perfect for the book. A bit lovelier and less clipped than most action-filled stories, but not so flowery as to distract from the plot. There were some truly beautiful parts that I read several times over, just for the sake of it. While, as I mentioned previously, this doesn't explore the typical questions of a dystopian, I do think that Rossi managed to give this some genuine depth, more than you see in many adventure stories of today. It's not one of those books that is so thoughtful and deeply moving that it will change your outlook in life, but it's more than the typical quest with the typical teeny bopper romance. There is thought and emotion and complexity, and I loved that.
Most of all, though, I loved the characters. None of these characters are anywhere near flawless, but I don't love them solely for their imperfections. I love them because they were all so very . . . realistic. I would read a part, and just think how perfectly fitting it was. I'd get that feeling, the feeling that if these characters were real people and they had gone through what this book said they had, if they were put in these very situations, that was precisely how they'd respond. I loved that, and I loved them. Aria, so sheltered at first, so horrified and confused when she's first tossed into the Death Shop, slowly becoming the badass girl at the book's end. Incredibly curious and incredibly persistent and determined to do anything and everything for the people she loves. Perry, whose exterior is so harsh and wild, but who wishes only to make up for something that was never really his fault. Always chasing after people but never fast enough, always trying to protect them but never good enough. Finding some form of redemption from the girl he'd thought to loathe.
And Roar. Oh, Roar, I do so adore you. If things don't work out with Liv, I'm always here.
There were many other noteworthy characters, but frankly, I don't have anything new to say: they were wonderful. They were real and imperfect and incredible, and I cannot wait to read their stories again.
One small aside: while I did love the concept of the Marked, and while I think Rossi portrayed the heightened senses remarkably well, I was a bit . . . confused . . . about something. At first, to Perry, Aria smells positively awful. He's completely repelled by her scent. But then she receives her, ah, first blood, and suddenly she smells like . . . violets? Now, I'm no Scire, but somehow that doesn't match up for me. Sans deoderant or any proper form of cleaning, girls on their period smell nasty as fuck. And I'm pretty sure if you brought that scent into sharp relief, it would still be nasty as fuck, only stronger. I get that Aria's scent is violets, but how is he not utterly disgusted by the scent of certain other things?
Aside from that slight confusion, I really, really loved this story. I can't quite give it five stars, but it is extremely close. More of a 4.5 than anything. Highly recommended.
Now if only Through the Ever Night (gorgeous title, by the by) would magically move its release date, I'd be a happy camper.