Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: fascism, suicide (depicted), domestic abuse, homophobia
The National People’s Voice have ruled over Kael for the last 15 years, and our story begins when things escalate in city-wide protests in Sanmarian, the capital. Beo and Rose are strangers drawn together by one novel that the fascist regime seems determined to destroy. Amidst incredible reveals, deep tragedies, tender moments of human connection, and more, this book does a phenomenal job of depicting survival despite insidious oppression.
A dystopian wonder that is difficult to read at times, but the hopeful ending is so, so, so earned.
The author Emmie Mears will be featured on the blog on October 28th, release date.
Sanmarian is the most lived-in city I’ve read in a while. There’s a sense of history but also a sense of what day-to-day life is like. The disruption of the status can not be felt among the characters but in the city’s life as well. It’s masterfully crafted, and it’s clear that a lot of research went into the type of story Mears wanted to tell. I got a sense that a lot of came from Polish contemporary history, and the author’s note confirms it. Though things suck in Sanmarian throughout the narrative, it’s definitely a place that feels like it can easily be visited.
I loved Rose and Beo’s relationship so much. There’s a slow-burn but precise connection there that wonderfully threads throughout the plot. I can’t reveal too much about how it all comes together, but it really made my jaw drop. The intricacy of the fiction within the fiction really works here, and Mears pulls it off. Plus, we get so deep into their backstories that enriches the lived-in-ness of the world. I just think it’s really neat.
The plot itself, however, is, at times, difficult to read. The actions taken by the National People’s Voice feel so contemporary in a way that really gets under your skin. Mears crafts a dystopian set-up that feels like it’s happened in our world. There’s propaganda that feels familiar and actions taken against unwanted citizens which made me have to put the book down and collect myself. Despite this darkness, the characters shine bright and their hope and commitment to each other provides the light at the end of the tunnel.