I gripped by Kindle. White knuckles… I felt anger. frustration, and pain for this character. I took a deep breath and put it down gently… Anna. After two years of being adrift in the Unland, she is abducted by a man named Will. In just the first few pages of the book, I knew this was going to be a tough, raw novel.
Set in a near-future dystopian England, the story is told from Anna’s point of view. She relays in first person a roller coaster of emotions as she goes from a widowed free woman to a branded slave who is caught in her captor’s cycle of abuse. Will inflicts mental and physical pain on Anna at every possible opportunity to manipulate and control her. And then he apologizes… yet, does it again soon after. The cycle continues until Anna has a chance to escape…
In this review I think the most important thing I can tell you is how this dystopian novel differs from the many others that are so popular these days. Here’s a short, but significant list:
- Riveting and taut pacing: I had to force myself to take a breath at times (see above). While the action does slow down, something is always going on in Anna’s head. Speculating danger. Plotting her next move to protect herself. It’s a relatively short book, and Smith uses this space so well to build that tension in so many ways.
- An authentic and real protagonist: I was focused on Anna’s story from page one. Her only desire from the beginning to the end of the story is to be on her own. She had survived in the countryside for a long time and she knows how strong she really is. She has the physical strength to endure the outside, but also such strength in the face of Will’s relentless brutality. It is that raging ball of revenge and anger that keeps her alive and focused for so long.
- A gripping description of setting: Smith set up multiple examples of “community.” Each with its own set of rules and guidelines for families and genders and acceptance. I found Smith’s speculation very interesting and it got me thinking a lot about this apocalyptical societies. What will our world look like if our systems break down?
Anna took me on a painful journey, but one where animus turns to revenge and redemption.
5 out of 5 stars
Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and the author for an advanced copy for review.