Imagine a world without books…
In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.
But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.
Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.
This was another book I chose by clear virtue of its beautiful cover (which will make it onto my list of top covers for 2015 that I fully intend to post before the end of the year).
The book was written as a tribute to readers and the common gift and obsession we all share – this is the kind of story I haven’t personally encountered since I read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke when I was in a school. I love the idea but it’s a very fine line to tread, above all assuming that you as a reader love books as intensely as the author does. In this case, of course, the author was right but I do wonder how many readers are casual readers.
I enjoyed the formula of this story, that the Fell is a central district in what used to be the US and the primary objective to achieve domination of the populace is to eradicate literature and the ability to read, appreciate and imagine. The main characters then embark on a quest to locate 9 volumes of Shakespeare’s plays belonging to each of the founders of a resistance against the Fell which will in time explain how the Fell can be defeated, though the premise is satisfying it does feel like the pacing is a little irregular when the characters begin picking up 2 volumes at a time with little preamble. I found this a little dissatisfying as I enjoyed savouring the journey as the characters went along.
Regarding the characters themselves, I felt that they certainly needed a little more development as you never really got a feel for their motivations or what they’d do next as they tended to bounce back and forth from one personality trait to the next. Noelle, the main character, seemed to be a bit two dimensional as characters go, but bearing in mind that this is a YA novel, it’s possible that this is a deliberate maneuver to attain the Bella Swan effect so that the reader can superimpose their own personality on to her.
The characters I really could feel for was Lady M and Grandma G, older women with form for badassery. The flashbacks in the novel really gave you a sense of who they were, which helps you feel their pain as their story unfolds – I think that the level of description and passion that goes into those flashbacks could really have benefited the rest of the novel to help you care about the main characters.
The romance part of this novel is a little bit cringey as there seems to be no reason for it at all apart from ‘because they should’, Ledger (the prescribed male half of this romance) is a bit of a mystery as we’re not exactly sure who or what the heck he is. It was explained a couple of times but I’m still not entirely sure what he was or how him having a libido fits in to the novel but hey ho!
The fact that Ledger is also the soul of a book inhabiting the body of her dead best friend makes the whole thing extra creepy, there was no need for any kind of romantic or sexual involvement there at all – it would have been the perfect opportunity to explore intense relationships between young adults that don’t involve tongue…
What I did really enjoy about this book was the flashbacks to the original resistance, where the characters seemed to be much more charismatic and relatable. These were all people who not only loved their books and the freedom of information exchange, but were prepared to give up their lives to ensure that future generations could also enjoy these things – now THAT is something I can get behind!
I did enjoy the ending, she has lost what’s left of her family and her best friend and been captured by the Fell to be ‘corrected’ but we are left with more questions as she finishes the story by writing a letter to someone we presumed dead. I imagine from this ending that there will be a sequel, hopefully this one will see the characters more fully developed and the pacing issues smoothed out because this is the foundation for yet another amazing series.
All in all, I think that perhaps this book was a little too Y in the YA department for my tastes – I enjoyed the premise very much but I think I enjoyed the violent nasty bits a little bit too much to get behind the tamer majority of it.
‘We are dreamers who dream outside of sleep. And we do it impossibly, dangerously well. We are readers.’ – Blood, Ink & Fire