If you're hoping for… well, anything remotely understandable to happen within this book, prepare to be disappointed. Not only does this book suffer from trying to emulate the totalitarian British dystopia of Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta" (spoiler alert: it can't), but it also suffers from "The Giver"-esque excessive capital letter use. There are no helpful infodumps or vivid flashbacks to help illuminate the backstory of The Break's aftermath, and the reader is reduced to looking to the blurb at the back of the book for more context. The main characters are reduced to tropes as they 'try' to puzzle their way through the national and inter-worldly conspiracy that the UK government is involved in. Only a few pages attempt to show the world of medieval Europe, and the rest of the time, we're in the ugly concrete ruins of greater London (a minor quibble, but if you were hoping for medieval atmosphere and adventure that the blurb questions promised…).
As for the other issue… The romance is quietly building in the first half, but in the second half, Blake suddenly seems to have decided that no, it is very important after all, and forces the two main characters into a marriage of plot convenience. And love? I mean, they're teenagers in a dystopia, but even other characters of other books like Divergent's Tris or The Hunger Games' Katniss had a slower courtship. Their dizzying political ascension in the epilogue – while kind of mirroring the originally left-handed marriage of Justinian I and Theodora in the 6th century – is both unbelievable (when? how old are they? why? who is supporting them?) as well as completely expected (their extreme strokes of luck are rewarded by Blake in a characteristically hurried and overblown fashion).
The writing itself was okay. The plot was also… okay. But the issues listed above have kind of killed any joy I might have had reading it. If you want the 'modern world through medieval eyes' experience, read better books. Or fanfiction. But don't waste your time with this one. Not even the happy end will make you happy.
Review published on the 16th March 2017
© 2017, richardblake.
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