Renegade Catching Fire with Insurgents and Other Dystopian Ilk

I gave Wilkinson's first YA book, Reckoning, a pass, mostly because I liked the twist of the let's-revert-back-to-a-monarchy-at-Windsor conceit.  The villain was suitably vicious and downright twisted, and the rituals of this bizarre throwback monarchy were rather fascinating.  This fantasy-dystopia mashup was quite well done--at least in regards to atmosphere and world-building.  The rest, well.

The first book was excessively derivative of The Hunger Games and Divergent.  I also felt particularly bad for the heroine, Silver (so named because of the silver streak in her hair, because she is a speshul snowflake), because her Gale is named Opie Cotton, for goodness' sake, which I think beats out Peeta Mallark by miles and miles and miles.  You're dating little Ronnie Howard from The Andy Griffith Show.  That's all I can see.

Speaking of names, they're all a bit odd in this book.  Most of the characters have vaguely fantasy-ish names, or at least uncommon names.  So I had to laugh when I read this little paragraph: "I already know Imrin, Faith, Jela, Pietra, Bryony, and Hart before we escaped but there are five other Offerings with us who I don't really know.  One of the boys, Frank, asks where we are going."  Frank?  Frank doesn't really fit in with this whole woo-woo naming thing that's going on.  Then again, neither does Opie.

Anyway, when Silver gets to Windsor and realizes (SHOCKER!) that things are not what they seem 

she organizes a little breakout/rebellion with the super-hot guy, Imrin, that she's been forced to battle for the King's amusement.  (This part of the book was actually pretty fun).

Now they're free, and Silver's like, "Oh my!  We should have probably brought a change of clothes!  What are we gonna eat?  Oh, lookie!  An abandoned village!  Let us loot it!  No one will ever find us!"  She even admits it: "Between Imrin and myself, we managed to mastermind the escape but hand't planned what to do afterwards."  Pedantic note: shouldn't that be "Imrin and me"?

We get a lot of Speshul Snowflake lines like, "Mine [the thinkwatch] is the only one that still functions.  The countless times I took it apart, replaced bits and tinkered seem to have paid off," and "I am not sure why but somehow I know there is something useful beyond."

She also confides in a fellow escapee that she's got a guy at home, so don't tell the new boyfriend, mmkay?  I don't like you, Silver Blackthorne.  I skipped to the end and WOW!  Catching Fire, much?  This has a serious case of Second Book Syndrome.  (To be clear, I don't think Catching Fire had SBS, but I only fully appreciated it after a reread).

The synopsis also hints that they're not the first to have escaped the Evil Clutches of the Evil King, but I don't even know anymore.  I would have preferred a super-detailed, in-depth examination of the machinations at court and everybody manipulating everybody else.  I like that sort of claustrophobic setting.  Instead, Silver and Friends are running around the countryside, trying to figure out how to use the map she's magically uploaded to her watch and not get caught by Kingsmen (and now all I can see is Colin Firth, thank you very much indeed) and stress out about her "it's complicated" relationship status.

I saw some really great writing and worldbuilding in Reckoning, and I know that the author writes books for adults as well.  I just wish that he'd let go of all the typical YA tropes and do something totally unexpected.  Cool ideas following a well-trodden path of romantic dystopian archetypes just make me sad.

ARC received from NetGalley for review.


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