Because of Grace’s age, she’s housed in the juvenile section of Emerald, along with several other inmates. Determined to get back to her family and save them from Stone’s wrath, Grace must make the decision to trust her fellow convicts–or die alone. Ash freshens up the Lord of the Flies vibe, and the steady, slow-building pace allows information and action to be doled out at a rate that will leave readers eagerly flipping to the next page. Grace’s budding relationships with the other prisoners add a layer of nuance that rapidly develops the characters into dynamic entities, particularly Duncan Oaks, adding just the right amount of sweetness to counterbalance the story’s darker themes of addiction, death, and hopelessness.
The intricate worldbuilding and deliciously complex characters shine, though at times some of the story’s horror aspects would benefit from greater clarity. Stone’s place in the larger cosmology also raises some questions that Ash leaves unanswered. Yet overall, this beautifully crafted novel’s enticing premise and creative blend of familiar elements with welcome surprises will appeal to readers of all ages–especially those interested in themes of isolation, belonging, and duty.
Takeaway: A beautifully crafted SF dystopia, boasting relatable characters and a skillful plot.
Great for fans of: Tara Brown’s Born, Bella Forrest’s The Girl Who Dared to Think.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A