4.21.2012

Great Pairings II: Post Apocalyptic Worlds: Female Protagonists


Sometimes you read a great book and you want something that feels just like it. You want to recapture the feeling you got discovering a new world. Here are my second recommendations in my Great Pairings series. 
Enclave by Ann Aguirre & Blood Red Road by Moira Young: these books have heroines that can crack you in half like a tooth pick. Sure they may need some serious lessons in empathy or social interaction, but have no fear, these dynamic heroines learn from their mistakes. For them, they either adapt, or they die. If you thought Katnis Everdeen was tough, compared to these young women, she just may seem like an indecisive lightweight.
ENCLAVERazorland Trilogy, Book Oneby Ann AguirreISBN-13: 978-0312650087Feiwel & Friends, 272 pages.Read the first 2 chapters here.Find it on AmazonB&NGoodreads
WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE
In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.
(SPOILERS AHEAD- READ WITH EXTREEM CAUTION):  
"Spooky-cool, grimly gorgeous, tactile, tough, and terrifying." --Sharon Shinn
I must prefice this review by letting you know that I consider this one of my favorite books of all time. Having said that, in Enclave I've found the heroine I've been waiting for since Graceling's heroine, Katsa (sure there was Katniss in between, but the these two heroines share a much feircer fighters intensity that stands them apart for me), Deuce has an almost inexorable will as a survivor, she's a ferocious fighter, and a unflagging leader. By adding an equally strong and often mysterious partner in Fade, Duece learns that compassion is not a weakness, that blind obidience is not strength.
Razorland 2- Cover Not Final
I could "see" their world with an absolute clarity and it came to me almost instantly. The author never had to describe all the minutia, a few words were suffcient. I could feel the grit and the smothering darkness underground, the claustrophobia of the enclosed spaces crammed almost check to jaw with unimaginable horrors hunting them in the darkness.
Conversely, when the story went Topside I could feel the vastness of the open space above them and how terrifying infinity makes you feel, but especially when it's starring you in the face for the first time. Strangely evocative, I felt as though I could smell the various and often putrid bouquet surrounding Deuce and Fade. In the Freaks I found a horrific humaniod mutation that feed mostly on human flesh and have teeth and claws made for ripping, clawing, and chewing you up. There are so many unanswered questions about their origins, and their behavior. It seems the more well fed, the more sentient they become. I cannot wait to find out more about them. This world feels like such a true representation of a post-apocalyptic world.
I was blown away by the characters in Enclave, and this story instilled a true passion in me for this series. I admire both of the lead characters, all Deuce wants is to shoulder the weight of the responsability to keep her loved ones safe, she hopes she's up to the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and odds of their world. She doesn't waver, but there is nothing between her and certain death besides her brain, her knives, and her feirce and infallible partner Fade. 
BLOOD RED ROADDustlands, Book Oneby Moira YoungISBN-13: 978-1442429994Margaret K. McElderry Books, 480 pages.Read an excerpt.AmazonB&NGoodreads
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside.

Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization. 
Blood Red Road, a gritty post apocalyptic western  feels cinematic in scale. I felt the blistering winds, tasted the sand in my teeth, the blood in my mouth, and the urgency and fear plaguing Saba and little Emmie on their quest to save their brother from his kidnappers. 
" Lugh! I cry.
I run alongside him. I gasp. Cain't git a breath. Tears run down my face.
Lugh lifts his head. Our eyes meet. Lugh's eyes. Blue as the summer sky. I grab his hands.
I'll find you, I says. Wherever they take you, I swear I’ll find you.
No, he says. It’s too dangerous. Keep yerself safe. You an Emmi. Promise me you will.
They grab Hob's rope as they pass. They're takin him too.
They break into a canter.
I cain't keep up. My hand slides away from Lugh's.
Promise me Saba, Lugh says.
I keep runnin after 'em.
I'll find you! I scream.
They disappear into the red haze.
Lugh! I scream. Lugh! Come back!
My legs go out from unner me. I fall to my knees....
...I cain't speak. Cain't breathe. Lugh's gone. Gone.  My golden heart is gone. I kneel in the dust.  The tears roll down my face. An a hard red rain starts to fall.  "-- from Blood Read Road Excerpt.
Written like spoken language, Blood Red Road is full of deliciously rich mispronunciations and slang that the author has said she loves so much. A Cormac McCarthy-like absence of quotation marks added to the raw style of Saba's narration. Saba's voice is so incredibly distinct, and reading her was like an instant immersion into her world. I felt like I was dropped into the barrenness of Silverlake, I felt the hot wind chapping my cheeks, and the bone dry earth beneath my feet. In a society where the English language has degraded and been bastardized for such a long time, I imagine that in this future post-apocalyptic world where the majority of it's inhabitants are illiterate, that this is how people would sound. 
Dustlands 2: Rebel Heart
Saba is like a clenched fist and I adored the red hot anger inside her. I loved Saba's unyeilding toughness, and her ruthlessness that she weilded unreservedly. That specific toughness served her well in the environment and circumstances she was thrust in.  It may have made her journey that much more difficult, but I understood her perfectly. But I also understood that she would need to grow and see how her single mindedness to save her brother Lugh isolated her from the people wanting to have a relationship with her- even her own little sister.
I am eagerly anticipating the next book in this Dustlands saga because there are some black hatted characters that I have a sneaking suspicion have a much grayer role to play. A revolution has sparked in book one, and I'm looking forward to the fire spreading in book two.  
Both the Razorland series and the Dustlands series have new books coming out this year. Outpost by Ann Aguirre continues Duece and Fade's harrowing adventure and is set to release September 04, 2012. As for Dustlands book two, Rebel Heart by Moira Young, hits shelves on October 30, 2012. Pre-order them now!

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