Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rebels: Review & Giveaway

It’s always interesting to reach the end of a series—and a little challenging to summarize both the book and the series at once.

51VCByhE72LSo much has changed in the course of the three books in Jill Williamson's The Safe Lands series! It’s not just where the Glenrock people are living that’s different—it’s who they have become.

After their neighbors at Glenrock are captured by the Safe Land’s enforcers in Captives, Levi has to become the leader, taking the place of the elders they’ve lost. The place is a twisted, drugged-out dystopian, where everyone lives for today because they’re promised nine lives and a future in Bliss, but no one actually knows what the future is like. Levi can get the others into temporary safety, disappearing into the underground, but they have no way to actually escape the city.

As Outcasts begins and the rest find safety in hiding, Mason is still on his way to becoming the medic he always to be. He has as many emotional injuries to heal, though, as physical wounds. Even more important, he needs to find some answers to the plague that is destroying the Safe Lands, and he needs Medic Ciddah Rourke to help him. He knows he can’t trust her—but he has to anyway, even if it means endangering his own life and his brother’s.

And Omar—Omar, the bratty little brother who betrays his village for a chance at glamor, is ready to become an adult and help undo the damage he caused. He also needs to help Shaylinn, now that the Surrogacy Center has impregnated her with his child(ren). The only problem? At the beginning of Rebels, he and Mason are sentenced to early liberation. They’re about to find out the secret no one will talk about.

As I said yesterday, it’s a complicated story.

The plot follows five different narrative voices high speed down a freeway jumbled with overpasses and intersections. If you haven’t read the previous books recently, there is enough backstory to get you up to speed, but if you haven’t read them at all, you might miss a lot of the action by jumping into the story at this point.

With all these threads going, it takes a while to see where the story is headed, but the journey never really slows down. Toward the end, the pieces came together briefly, before splitting apart again into a frenzied chase sequence and a TV drama that seems almost tame by comparison.

The complication actually works both ways—while there is a lot of action in play, the story does jump tracks a couple of times. At one point, for example, a major character ends up working in a cow shed and notices how awful the conditions are. It’s not a bad point to make, but to me, the section feels out of step with the rest of the story. It reads along the lines of: “Nasty dictator, corrupt system, people out to kill me—wow, modern farming practices are rotten—must escape before I get killed.” The sections like this don’t hurt the story much, though they do jar a little and make the climax feel slightly off.

It’s also sort of hard to explain why this story doesn’t end up highly demoralizing. The world of the Safe Lands is so extremely well-built and grotesque, it should be depressing. I also find heroes (or villains) who consistently mess up and end up depressed—well, depressing. I didn’t really expect to like the story much when I started reading Captives, and after a while, even quirky Princess Bride allusions can get depressing. So for me, it’s saying a lot that Omar and Shaylinn—struggling through their broken world—makes this a story about hope.

With that said, I really did enjoy the story. It’s been a fascinating journey, watching the characters grow and change, but it was really Omar who kept me reading. I was surprised in Captives to find how much I still liked him after he messes up so badly, and I’ve continued to like him as he struggles to fix his mistakes only to fail and lose hope once again. I might even read the series again someday.

You can see what the other CSFF Tour participants are saying about Rebels here:

Julie Bihn Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Jeremy Harder
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Elizabeth Williams

As I said yesterday, I am hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway for a copy of Rebels. You can enter the giveaway by leaving a comment here or on my review tomorrow. Even better, you can get a second entry by linking to your favorite post from one of the other tour participants--I'm looking hearing about the posts you like and why.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

[My thanks to Blink/Zondervan for sending me a review copy of Rebels in connection with the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.]


Jill Williamson said...

Ha ha, I love your cow comment. I think I researched them a little too much! Omar's chickens too. I'm glad you enjoyed the story overall. Thanks for reviewing it! :-)

Audrey Sauble said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jill! The series was definitely worth the read, and I've been enjoying the tour for Rebels.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your review of this book, Audrey. I also read Jeremy Harder's review from the CSSF Tour and I'm looking forward to reading Rebels!


Audrey Sauble said...

Thanks, Denise! I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of the book.

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