Hunger Games meets Brandon Sanderson in this dystopian fantasy of epic proportions. Inspired by biblical theology, The Dividing will pull you into a world of magic, monsters, and mystery!
Adamic is the language of the Gods. When spoken, it has the power to create worlds, to raise the dead, to make man as God. Fortunately, no one has spoken it in thousands of years. The only remnants are the written spells.
The people of Cavernum depend on these spells. They’re etched into the city walls, fending off the feeders—deadly creatures with a thirst for human blood. Yet for the lower class, Cavernum isn’t much safer. Children starve, and illness runs rampant. Only the elite have access to magic, and status must be earned. One's class is determined by a single competition: The Dividing. Those who excel join the guild of their choice. The rest are sent to the fields, condemned to a life of slave-labor.
Princess Roselyn Malik has trained her entire life for The Dividing. She’s guaranteed a spot in the royal orchestra, but equalist rebels threaten her throne. To secure her crown, Rose must acquire the power and prestige associated with the guard. Only guardsmen have access to the amulets—powerful weapons that grant dominion over the elements.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, Matt will do anything to help his terminally-ill adoptive mother. For now, that means poaching to pay the bills. Until one day, Matt is attacked by a feeder and plunged into the world of Cavernum. There too, Matt is drawn to the guard, in search of a magic strong enough to save his mother.
But danger lurks beyond the walls, and Cavernum won’t be safe for long.
Telling the story of an age-old secret civilization hiding from modern society, this initial installment of Downing’s Adamic Trilogy takes on a great deal of heavy lifting with its dual perspectives and ambitious scope. Running throughout the narrative is a heavy focus on the magical system that ties into an intriguing but often vague mythology inspired by biblical themes like Cain’s murder of Abel and Adam’s God-granted dominion over elements. The emphasis on all this, as Matt immerses himself in his new surroundings and Roselyn copes with political intrigue and changing traditions, leaves little room to explore what makes the Adamic society singular or to delve into the richest, more complex elements of the material.
Still, the ongoing contrast of Cavernum’s oppressive, classist societal structure versus modern sensibilities adds plenty of tension, and readers will appreciate the slow-simmering attraction between Matt and Roselyn as well as their respective struggles for success against overwhelming odds. The life-and-death stakes, romantic subplot, and combination of epic fantasy worldbuilding with political intrigue will appeal to YA fans looking for a serious read.
Takeaway: This dystopian YA epic boasts a secret society, high stakes, and bold worldbuilding.
Great for fans of: Leah Bobet’s An Inheritance of Ashes, Joelle Charbonneau’s Testing Trilogy.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B+
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, highly recommended
Reviewed in the United States on October 3, 2020
I really shouldn’t like this book, as the premise doesn’t appeal to me as much as I’d thought based on the Bookbub blurb. There’s a secret compound of elites based on their holy bloodlines. Actually it’s one of several. They are the descendants of Adam. And they have magic - that they no longer understand. And there’s a secretive group of completely evil individuals who both prey on these holy people and try to wipe them out. These are the descendants of Cain, who also make up the vast majority of mankind. Kind of Dan Brown taken to a ludicrously high level. However, the book is extremely nuanced. Maybe at least some of the bad guys aren’t actually that bad. Maybe the good guys aren’t entirely good. Certainly their society is pretty screwed up. Maybe all the good guys aren’t even pulling in the same direction. Maybe some of them are actually . . . evil.
This nuance isn’t unusual - it’s almost necessary to write a great novel, at least by today’s standards. But here it’s very well done. Some of the juxtaposition and contradiction is blatant, the extreme poverty and misery of the lowest class who provide all the food and manual labor. But even though the author bludgeons the reader with this, he also takes pains to establish real reasons (beyond the uncaring elite) why this is so. There is no flip the switch solution. A lot of the book is similarly nuanced, so that even though the book is a worldwide struggle of good versus evil, one can never really be sure for whom one should root.
Stylistically the book is written as a fish out of water story. Matt, an orphan raised outside the sanctuary with no knowledge of his heritage, sees the medieval Adamic culture through the lens of modern American culture. However, the author also puts Roselynn, heir to the Adamic crown, in a similar situation, from which she draws much the same conclusions. There are also important characters who straddle both sides, to an extent, who the reader understands could ultimately throw their weight to either side. The author manages to make all these characters very believable, three dimensional and relatable, even sympathetic.
Pacing is where I had some problems. The first third of the book is extremely slow. This is because the author is setting the stage for thousands of pages of highly nuanced conflicts on multiple levels. Get through the slow minutia and the book picks up considerably. Not only is the action starting big time, the tension ratchets up and builds steadily even as the lines of battle waver.
Overall the book is superbly written. Many things are shown to be not quite what they might seem, but there’s enough constancy to not be gimmicky. There are no Mary Sue characters, but all the principal characters have enough power to be factors and enough conflict to keep the reader unsure of their story arcs. All in all, highly recommended and I’m off to buy the next.
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS INCREDIBLE. YOU WILL NOT REGRET PICKING IT UP.
Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2020
From day one, I could not put this book down. It’s intriguing plot (aided by twists and turns and just the right amount of secrecy) plus the amazingly fleshed-out characters make a fantastic read. And WORLDBUILDING- WOW. The amount of worldbuilding in this book is something that is actually kind of rare to see, and Devin Downing has gone full out with the world of Cavernum- it’s rules, society, features, and lore practically fly off the page and around you, enveloping you in the incredibly detailed world of Cavernum.
All in all, if you like a bit of fantasy, mystery, magical lore, intrigue, and are looking for a hella good book, this is the book for you.
5.0 out of 5 stars Different than most
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2020
I have Kindle Unlimited and I read a stupid amount of books. Its easy to get stuck in a rut where it feels like one book is just a rewrite of another. This books world was markedly different from any other book Ive read. If youre a super reader looking for somethiga little different this books for you.
5.0 out of 5 stars 10/10 would read again
Reviewed in the United States on September 9, 2020
This was the first book in years I've not been able to put down. My husband had to hear about it for days after I finished, it's so we'll written and original. Absolutely recommend reading, and rereading until the next book comes out!
Dani @ My Heart Is Booked
4.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling fantasy debut!
Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2020
The Dividing is an enthralling start to a new fantasy trilogy by debut author Devin Downing. Though the basis of this world-building and magic system is rooted in Christian theology, this book is sure to be enjoyable for readers of any faith. Downing has managed to create two worlds that exist simultaneously, but are vastly different. One world is essentially the Earth we all know with a few terrifying differences, the other, an isolated medieval sanctuary city called Cavernum that exists as one of many hidden all over the globe. The alternating perspectives of the dual protagonists provide a satisfying glimpse into both worlds before they collide. I was immediately drawn to Roselyn, the female protagonist. Though Matt is equally compelling in his quest for knowledge, I loved the development of Rose's character from spoiled princess to worthy protector. The secondary characters are just as compelling. I appreciated the diversity of age, race, and social status found within the group.
The pacing of this novel may be a little slow at first for a YA reader, but I'd place this one more firmly in the NA category (if bookstores and publishers didn't keep negating its existence). Mature teen and adult readers will have no trouble being swept away by the life or death battles, competition, and political intrigue. The emotional tension and turmoil laced throughout is genuine and captivating. There are several moments that will have you perched on the edge of your seat, even more that will have you gasping, laughing, or shedding a tear.
This novel is truly a work of epic fantasy. There are numerous subplots woven seamlessly into the two protagonists lives, each one exciting and relevant. I was happy to see many important themes beyond the main good vs evil (which became deliciously blurred as the novel progressed), including fighting social injustice and sexism. Honestly, the amount of feminism buried in this book had me pleasantly surprised. There is something for everyone in this book: action, legends, magic, romance, a quest for knowledge, battles against injustice. The list goes on. If you are looking to read any kind of fantasy or magical realism, I highly suggest you check this one out.
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put It Down
Reviewed in the United States on July 17, 2020
The Dividing is a present-day dystopian with elements of magic, secret languages, soul-devouring demons, and more. I was initially a bit hesitant because it's categorized as a Christian Fantasy, but the only correlation I saw was with the magic system being rooted in Christian theologies, which was actually SO interesting and unique.
The book itself was unputdownable and I found myself so engrossed in the world-building and magic system, which had a very Hunger Games meets Throne of Glass vibe 👌🏼
There were a lot of characters in the book, but I felt that they all played an important part in the plot and were all genuinely interesting. It was easy to become emotionally invested in many of their stories and I definitely shed some tears on multiple occasions.
In terms of romance, there is a bit of a love triangle. It’s certainly not the driving plot in the book, but it was just enough to pique my interest and I think we’ll see more in book two.
Overall, for a debut novel, I really loved it and I gave it 4.5/5 stars. The story was super well-paced, the characters were likable, the world and magic system felt unique, and I would highly recommend it to all of my YA/NA fantasy lovers out there.