Reckoning is a YA dystopian firmly set in the Hunger Games and Divergent mindset. Psychological coming of age testing, tributes/offerings to the King, society broken down into castes/factions, and a country divided by sectors – all these should sound very familiar. The unique vantage of this novel, however, is that it is is a united England previously torn by wars after ‘the oil ran out’ around the world. But while the first half hints at a lot of interesting mysteries and world building, the second half unfortunately devolves to being a simple escape story from a medieval type castle.
After years and years of wars, England is united by a King once again. The country is broken into 4 compass point sectors and each send certain products to the capitol in exchange for rations and some electricity in the broken down world. Into this world Silver Blackthorn is born – a genius at tech and devices, she lives a carefree life until the Reckoning – a psychological testing for all sixteen years olds to determine their place in society (trog, member, intermediate, or elite). Silver is surprised to discover she is named a member but also one of only 4 offerings from each sector to go to Windsor Castle every year to work there. No one knows much about the offerings since they are never seen again. What she discovers in Windsor castle, though, will change everything she knows about her world and could very well cost her her life.
The first half of the book felt very Hunger Games. But when we reached the capitol/Windsor Castle, then suddenly it was a standard medieval story with some high tech gadgets in the background. The world building stopped, character development stopped, and the author broke some reader covenants that really turned me off (e.g., if you write in the first person, you can’t spring a plot twist on the reader that the main character not only knew, but also set up. It’s disingenuous when she is pretending to be scared in her own head all the while knowing it’s a ruse).
The society is broken down into castes but we’re never given to understand what that means. E.g., an elite is working in the kitchens hauling food boxes while a member is an upper level computer technician. As well, a lot of things weren’t making much sense to me logic-wise and I kept having to switch off my brain. I understand and respect that more information will be given in later novels – but I’m also fairly curious how the author is going to write himself out of the inconsistencies.
Most of the book was pretty much a ‘The Great Escape’ scenario with a lot of convenient coincidences. I understood the point the author was making that ‘knowledge is power’ but that point would have had much more poignancy if all the bad guys weren’t so obviously evil and so completely mind blowingly stupid. I just don’t buy the logic that the bad guys were sloppy/complacent in a situation where they brought 40 kids to a city every year and those kids immediately figured out only 3-4 would survive until the next batch. The kids have nothing to lose, so why wouldn’t they be rebelling all the time and why wouldn’t the bad guys be less obvious/sloppy/eeeeevil?
Perhaps because we have a male writer, there is no soppy romance. But the female character did feel a bit idolized in the way male role playing gamers choose sexy but kick butt female characters to play. At no time did I feel like I was reading about a person who could be real.
As with so many of these books, characters just don’t seem to be traumatized (unless for a plot point of how eeeeevil the government is) or reactive to the horrific situation they find themselves. Giggling, tickling, holding hands on secret outings – it just felt off, especially when it was only a few pages previous that they witnessed barbaric cruelty. I just didn’t feel a sobering reality in the characters other than annoyance in the situation.
So while I did not enjoy this novel as much as others, I do feel it is a firm 3 stars in rating. Easy to follow with a strong heroine who never becomes wimpy or mopey (even to the point of seeming like cardboard).
Reviewed from an ARC.