Sometimes, a book captures your heart so strongly that you’re left with a ‘high’ once you complete it. Shattered Veil was that book for me; once I started, I couldn’t put it down and completed it in one sitting. Strong nuanced characters and intriguing plot, some low tech sci fi elements, and a very low key but interesting romance kept me hooked through the night. Although likely intended as a YA, this is a book that stands up to adult scrutiny as well.
Plot: Aris loves two things: her childhood sweetheart (and soon to be betrothed) Calix, and flying. Ward Vadim rules her country wisely while burying regrets of her personal life: a grown son who left her and a love she was denied. Both women will find their mettle tested as their countries are drawn into a terrifying war against a third nation with superior military power. Aris will disguise herself as a man to follow her enlisted beloved to the battle lines in a world where women are not allowed to fight. Ward Vadim will discover that no one, not even a leader, is above terrifying betrayal. And both will find their mettle tested beyond what either could possibly have imagined.
For once, we are given a YA where the female protagonists are allowed to be strong and do not wither, become weak, or vaccilate when tested. All the women in the book are strong yet distinct characters, each drawing upon different skill sets in order to meet challenges. None need to be saved (nor are they saved) by any of the men in the book. Indeed, most of the time, the women do all the saving.
Aris, the young protagonist masquerading as a man in order to do search and rescue operations behind enemy lines, grows as a character over the course of the story yet is never ’emasculated’ by any love interests. Though there is a very beautifully written and nicely underplayed romance at the heart of the book, it never at any time distracts from, interrupts, or diminishes the heroine’s strength. Nor does the action in the story lose focus to soppy love subplots.
Although we have a low tech sci fi setting, this really is a thinly veiled reference to the Iraqi/Afghanistan/Middle Eastern war conflicts (but mercifully without the religion/jihad – the war is about resources in the book). Because it is a low tech sci fi planet, the story can develop with minimal technology yet still be believable.
The writing is straightforward and flows easily – making a compelling yet easy to follow read. And though the plot is interesting, the characters themselves are well thought out and constructed. They are the reason the story feels rich; you want to root for the characters and follow them to see how they survive the trials set in front of them.
About 3/4 of the way through the story is a plot twist I did not see coming, that was just so perfect I yelled out loud at 3:00am, “Yes!”. It’s rare a book will cause that kind of outburst and I have to admit, I giggled with glee over the story before eagerly returning to the book to finish it.
In all, this is very recommended for all ages. Suitable for teens (a bit of gore, no sex or swearing) and adults (the adult protagonists were as interesting to follow as the teen). I greatly look forward to the next book in the story.
Reviewed from an ARC.