Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol
Fiction Friday: Secondborn Review
So last month, I reviewed something I didn’t care for. Today, I’m reviewing a book I enjoyed a lot. It’s called Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol. You can find it here. It’s another sci-fi dystopia novel, but I think it’s one of the better ones. It has a gripping story and wonderful writing and focuses on someone who’s clearly nobility, yet treated like a commoner. So, let’s begin.
The story focuses on Roselle St. Sismode, a young woman who is part of a famous family. She is a member of the Fate of Swords, a faction that focuses on military and combat. The factions all have specific purposes. While I won’t list all of them, I’ll list a few notable ones. The Fate of Swords are combat-oriented people, Fate of Seas are fishermen, Fate of Atoms are the tech nerds and so on. Basically, depending on which family the person is born in, they’re forced to be whatever the fates determine. And no, they can’t change Fates. If they’re a Sword, they’re military, end of discussion.
You can sense already that this world is pure dystopia. Yet our main heroine is born from the highest order, the daughter of Othala, who is a prestigious member within the Fate of Swords. She also has a massive goal of killing her own daughter, Roselle. She is seen as the biggest threat to the sword family due to how skilled she is and her relationships with both Dune, her mentor, and Clifton Salloway, a munitions expert who team up to become the biggest weapons corporation in the Swords.
The main plot revolves around Roselle’s time in the military, from uneasy beginnings to her relationship with Hawthorne, the main love interest. She goes on espionage missions in other Fates and takes on an organization called Census who is actively trying to kill her. The story is very gripping and keeps you glued to the pages. You follow Roselle who becomes this overconfident woman who ends up as a person who realizes the gravity of the situation and starts to panic. She goes through a lot of character development once she realizes what’s actually happening.
While I won’t give away the ending, I can say that while I felt it was satisfying and appropriate, it ends abruptly. This is a trilogy, so I expect the main story to continue in the sequel (titled Traitorborn), but that’s just my thought.
The main character is Roselle St. Sismode. She’s trained as a combat expert who, due to her status as a Sword, enlists as a soldier for the Fates of the Republic. As I mentioned, she goes through a lot and the story, being in first person, focuses primarily on her. She goes from being a secondborn celebrity to a soldier to having an award ceremony go awry.
There are occasions where her knowledge of technology goes a little too far. For example, she asks an engineer if she wants to find a way to swap between fusion power and hydrogen power for various weaponry within the same machine. While I might have missed the explanation, and it shows her knowledge in weapons combat, it does seem to be a little too much. She also comes off as being better than everyone else, however, she soon realizes that almost everyone is out to get her. So while there are bits of sue-ness in her, it’s not so unbelievable that it breaks the story. I still found her to be a round character that develops from overconfident arrogance to genuine fear throughout the story.
Other characters include Hawthorne, Roselle’s love interest. He takes Roselle after an incident during their escape from the St. Sismode mansion and during a visit to the main barracks, gets into an incident with Census, a bureau of agents that aim to kill any Thirdborns or traitors. It’s illegal to have a third child, and while I won’t give out too much, there is a thirdborn that puts Roselle in harm’s way, but that’s not why Census stops her.
Census takes Roselle away for interrogation and Hawthorne’s group comes to the rescue, putting a stop to the Census Agent, Crow.
Speaking of which, Crow is the main villain or at least one of the main villains. He’s a man who wants nothing more than to bring absolute harm to Roselle in any way he can, even if he has to stalk her to do it. He follows her every move and is there at the worst possible times for her. Just when you think she’s free from his wrath, he shows up. And he does everything he can to bring misery to Roselle. He’s very sadomasochistic and thinks little of anyone else.
The last character of note is Clifton Salloway. He’s a weapons manufacturer and someone Roselle has a slight fear of, but the two develop a close bond with each other. Clifton cares about Roselle’s safety almost to a creepy degree. His motives are questionable, but he has her back, regardless of what he does in the end. He owns a secret organization of Roselle supporters, which adds to the idea that he’s obsessed with her in a creepy way.
Yet throughout the story, his concern for Roselle forces him to take matters into his own hands. He takes Roselle from the base for safety reasons and refuses to allow anyone, even her own family to harm her. Roselle understands this, so she strikes a deal to make fusion and hydrogen hybrid weapons. I like the idea of Clifton being this guy who’s clearly on her side, but his motives are unclear to the point where you wonder whose side he’s really on. I love villains like this whose motives border on them being supportive, but it’s clear they’re in it for themselves. I think Clifton–if he is on the good side–is a great example of what I call a character with questionable motives.
The writing is really good. The detail the author goes into during each scene is impressive. It’s told in first person from Roselle’s POV, but you get a strong sense of her character from the description. It explains just enough without going too far, which is what most of these detailed descriptions tend to do. It’s just the right amount. A few chapters had varying lengths, some long and some short. A few chapters took me 6 minutes to complete (I’m a slow reader), while others took me thirty minutes. It seems to be a good method so that none of the chapters feel predictable lengthwise. It’s always good to change things up a bit.
And of course, we have the inevitable love scene halfway through the book. Wouldn’t be a young adult/new adult book without one, I suppose. Either way, the writing is stellar and a good example of how to mix length and flow.
That’s all we have for this book. It’s a great adventure filled with action, suspicious characters and of course, romance. If you’re tired of books like the Hunger Games and Divergent and want something different, then this would be one to look at. The next book comes out in mid-April of 2018, so perhaps around that time, I’ll have a review for that book.
So that’s that. Next month, on Friday, October 6th, I’ll have something else, probably within the Fantasy category. I like to change things up every so often.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.