Although I enjoyed The Pearl Wars, I have to admit it didn’t pull me in as much as I had expected. One part dystopian, one part steampunk, the author gives us an original concept with characters not explored often enough in YA/middle school fiction. There is grand worldbuilding with equally nuanced storylines, mysteries and hints, with enough intrigue to keep a reader interested. But the pacing is a bit off so it wasn’t a clean read.
Story: Two boys in very different life situations have a chance encounter in a very dystopian Earth. Ravaged and barely livable, survivors use pearls to power the machinery that protects domed cities and ships. The pearls occasionally fall out of the sky and finding them is a very lucrative business. When Jesse and Cassius meet as adversaries, they begin a path of discovery that will uncover the secret of the pearls – and the place they both will play once they learn that neither is what they believed.
I enjoyed the individual and distinct character of both boys. They are intelligent but also given to the foibles of that young age. One hotheaded the other methodical, each approach a problem from different angles. It was fascinating to see what would happen as the pressure mounted and each was forced to confront the pearl situation and also the realization that they have a common past. Although they are on very different sides – scavenger vs. military order – they are going to find that they will have to work together despite the instant dislike.
This is a well written novel with a Cain and Abel story at the heart. Although its description sounds more like a steampunk or Ender’s Game type of book, it really ends up being a YA dystopian. And therein was the problem for me since I didn’t necessarily believe the level of technology in that type of circumstance. I did like the bit of magic thrown in with all the science fiction and dystopian elements, however.
The worldbuilding is strong, there is a lot of action, good (though predictable twists), and is an undemanding and enjoyable read. I think teen/tween boys will especially enjoy this since it eschews a lot of the romance found in this genre and instead concentrates on the two boys and their antagonistic relationship.
Although the ending and cliffhanger were expected (and the riddle of the pearls was fairly obvious), they weren’t anticlimactic. Because of the odd pacing, some parts were too quick and others far too long and drawn out (and too many info dumps). In all, I have no hesitation recommending this book but found it didn’t intrigue me enough to want to read the next novel in the story.