Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Enclave

Title: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: April 12, 2011

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.

At first, the society described in Enclave seems very primitive, with the members of Deuce’s enclave subsisting on meat and mushrooms and using clubs as their weapon-of-choice. But as with any good dystopian novel, no society is as simple as it seems.

Trained as a Huntress, Deuce is a tough-gritty heroine with a conscience; she alternately laments her hesitance to subscribe to a “survival of the fittest” mentality and wishes that comforting others came more naturally to her. Her struggles between blind obedience to a flawed society and facing the uncertainty – and danger – of the unknown are never dull. Deuce’s partnership with Fade is carefully and compellingly developed. They’re two very strong characters – both mentally and physically – that complement each other well, and I can’t wait to see more of them in the sequel(s).

I love when books are unpredictable, when the introduction of a character or plot twist is not expected from the beginning. Enclave kept surprising me, especially once Deuce is exposed to the world outside her enclave. The side characters are also distinct in a flawed-but-likable way, and even those that are introduced in the latter half of the book ended up being some of my favourites.

Ann Aguirre (whose other books I will definitely be checking out) has crafted a fully-realized dystopian world that at times feels both vast and very self-enclosed. Many of the pockets of civilization – if you can call them that – that have survived the apocalypse are brutal, and the book quickly expands on Deuce’s small enclave setting. My single criticism concerns the mentions of an earlier civilization that readers will recognize, such as cans of Spam, which sometimes feel like a contrived way of reinforcing the post-apocalyptic setting. Still, I did appreciate that Aquirre doesn't just arbitrarily throw in objects from the past; the materials and food mentioned could realistically survive an apocalypse, as suggested by the author's blurb at the end of the book.

The zombie-like creatures – “Freaks” – that terrorize the tunnels near Deuce's home are suitably creepy, and their presence ensures some great action scenes. Hints pertaining to the geographical setting of the book are added at a perfect pace, revealing just enough information to pique readers’ interest. The ending leaves plenty of unanswered questions and potential for further plot and character development, but also concludes at a satisfying point.

Enclave is a terrifyingly good read full of tense fight scenes, smidgens of romance, and an unflinching heroine that must struggle to survive in a well-built world fraught with danger.

Rating: 4.5/5

Cover Thoughts: Although I don't mind Enclave's current, gender-neutral cover, I prefer the original version (shown here) from when the book was titled Razorland. Fade and Deuce look pretty awesome in their armor, plus I like that Deuce's scars are visible.

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