OMG I love loved loved this book. It was so amazing!It had everything a great dystopian book should have: a repressive government, family love, a love interest, friends, hardships, violence and success. It had characters you love and characters you hate. It makes you fell an array of emotions: love, hate, sadness, happiness, despair.
Basically the book is about the government called the Establishment, who rules the country with an iron fist. The police called imposers are able to do whatever they want to civilians with out consequences. The people live in poor, dirty, disgusting and crowded hovels. One each day of the year, all 16 year olds are subjected to the Recruitment, which is where 5 teenager are chose to compete in the violent trials, which will deem one recruit as the victor to train and serve as an imposer. The catch is that each recruit gets two incentives he has to fight for. These incentives are people they love like family and friends. During each trial the recruit who places last will have to decided which of their incentives will die, which is called The Culling. The trials go on until one recruit with at least one incentive intact wins.
The story is about Lucian, Lucky, Sparks who gets recruited in to the trials because the prefect Cassius Thorn wants revenge against him and Lucky's friend Digory. There is also of back story between Cassius and Lucian that I don't want to spoil. Basically Lucian meets Digory that day while he is on his way to meet Cassius. Digory reveals that he is part of the resistance against the establishment and both boys save each other from imposers. Lucian ends up with one of Digory's anti establishment posters that he has on him when he meets with Cassius. During the recruitment ceremony, Digory is chosen as one of the recruits. Cassius then rigs the last recruit spot by killing the selected recruit and naming Lucian as the new one. He does this because he thinks Lucian betrayed him and the establishment. Like I said, lot of back story with these two. From then on the book is about the recruit's (Lucian, Cypress, Gideon, Ophelia and Digory) life during the training for the Trials and then the actual trials themselves.
Lucian, aka Lucky, Sparks is the main character of the story. I loved him. He is loving, loyal, brave and determined. He is in no way a ordinary hero: he is not the strongest of the recruits. In fact he can be considered one of the weakest. Its his personality, his goodness that makes him a hero. Its his unwavering love for his brother that makes him a hero and what drives this book. Sure he and Digory fall for each other but every action that he takes, every injury he gets, every things he does is to save his brother. It's all about his brother. He is the one thing that drives Lucian and makes him able to endure the entire process. Many times during the trials, Lucian gets discouraged about his abilities to win the trials, but the though of his brother spurs him on. That and Digory's help.
I loved Digory Tycho as well. He is the strongest and biggest of the recruits but he has a huge soft spot for Lucian. Throughout the entire story, Digory is like Lucian's rock. He helps Lucian in anyway he can by watching out for him, giving him food, taking care of his injuries and standing up for him in front of the authorities. Digory loves Lucian from the very beginning (since they were in school together) and Lucian does as well. It takes about 3/4 of the book for them to admit it to each other but when they do, I was ecstatic. Digory is also part of the resistance that is opposed to the establishment and wants to take it down. His fate is unknown in the book but if he really dies then I am going to be one pissed off mother.
I liked the other recruits as well. Cypress comes off as a huge bitch but when you learn her story you realize why she is the way she is and why she does the things she does. She has had an extremely hard and unfair life which has hardened her. Gideon is a former classmate of Lucian and he has his own demons as well. More than once Lucian has glimpsed scars all along Gideon's back but you never find out much about him until the trials. He worries that he has darkness inside him that can make him a monster but in reality he is just a scarred lost good guy. Ophelia is motherf**Ken crazy. At first she seems like a huge ditz but she has an inner malice that she shows a lot during the training and the trials. She can go from sweet to evil in less than a second. Its extremely scary. I had to say that I was cheering for her death throughout the book. While I hated her, I also understood her. She, like Lucian, was willing to do anything to save her incentives. She was just much more brutal and evil about it.
While the book was action packed, which I loved, I wasn't prepared for was how gory and bloody it is. Yes there are many ew and yuck factors as well as unspeakable horrors and sadism that the government expresses. However the gore does not take away from the book, rather it adds to it. It shows how ruthless the government really is and it also helps you understand how the characters become who they are as well as how they are able to do what they have to to win. The sergeant in charge of the recruit's training is a sadistic bitch who I hope gets what's coming to her in future books. The horrific ways that the government executes the incentives is mind blowing. Instead of killing these incentives who are someones loved ones in a human manner they kill them in brutal ways such as with acid that melts them, killer bees, killer rats, starving canids (which I assume are dogs) and other ways. The imposers are a ruthless cruel police force who thinks nothing of killing innocent civilians is grisly way or raping boys/girls. Cassius who was exactly like Lucian before he was recruited was changed and twisted into the person who he is now, who exacts revenge in a horrible way and who now supports the establishment. Truly, the government makes people into monsters.
This book was incredible to say the least and I recommend it to everyone. I can't wait for the next book in this series The Sowing
to come out!
This review is also posted on Spantalian's Book Reviews