When Aya first meets the Driver during one of her stints in solitary, she's sure he's going to kill her. A shouted warning from her pen startles him and an excellently aimed knife is his reflexive response. Luckily, years of hunting have honed her reflexes too, and she manages to avoid the knife. Next thing she knows, he's jumping over the poisoned river into her space. Like all of his kind, he can't speak, and she struggles to understand why he's being kind to her. Night after night, he returns to the solitary pen and sits there as Aya pours her heart out to him. It's not like he could ever tell anyone what she says anyway. She decides to name him Kiran because of the unusual color of his eyes. And then comes auction day, but this time, Aya can't get out of it. Surprisingly, Kiran appears and distracts the guard and she flees. Desperate for a disguise, she helps a young boy at the market steal a piece of candy in return for his cape. But the ruse fails and she is recaptured and forced onto the auction block. As she looks onto the crowd, she sees the boy with a creepy looking man. She thinks nothing of it until she learns that she has been purchased by the man, who is the brother of the mayor. The boy, Amir, is the mayor's son and she discovers that she is going to be his playmate until he grows older, when she will become something far worse.
In the mayor's household, Aya quickly finds out that Amir is spoiled, cruel, and difficult to please; the slightest sign of obstinance on her part results in pain. A moment of laxity presents an opportunity to escape not long after she arrives, and she takes it. On the way out, she runs into Kiran, who had apparently been mounting a rescue attempt himself. They sneak out together and return to the barn across from the solitary pen where Kiran houses all of his supplies, planning their escape back into the mountains. While there, Aya learns a surprising secret; Drivers can talk, but their silence helps ensure the safety of their women. Another problem arises when Aya sees one of her ex-fellow-inmates being punished by a Watcher in the solitary pen and takes action. Now, Kiran must suit the escape plan for the three of them instead of the original two. They make it out of the city in disguise, but they are joined by yet another companion: Brax, unwilling to be left behind by his master. They may have escaped the city, but they are still being followed by the Mayor's men. When Aya discovers her family is missing, shocking realizations begin to come to light that threaten her understanding of who she is. With her future in the balance, she must commit to a plan of action or risk losing everything she loves.
Man, talk about a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat read. I love the main characters , I love the plot, I love the way it's written... I just really love this book. The characters are really well developed so you can almost tell what they're going to do before they do it. The plot calls up anger, heartbreak, strength, determination, and a host of other traits I'm leaving out. Additionally, it addresses the divide between men and women in society; it may not be that men are buying and selling women for pleasure or their child-bearing abilities, but the problem is present nonetheless. For another thing, it steers clear of typical dystopian tropes (TDT). If this was a TDT book, Aya would (1) realize she's stuck in an unfair system, (2) meet a boy she falls in love with, (3) decide to escape with said boy, and (4) break the system on the way out, freeing everyone from the tyranny of the corrupt power group. Admittedly, the book does have some of these twists, but the timeline and motivations are vastly different.
If there's one thing that really bugged me about the book, it's how there were a couple of loose ends that never got tied up. Unfortunately, if I listed the primary one, it would kinda give away a huge plot point, so I'll remain silent. Aside from that, there were a few points in the book that seemed to drag on. I'll give you an example of a loop that really started to get me: attempt escape, get recaptured, get punished, attempt escape, get recaptured, get punished, repeat until your head spins. I get that Aya spends most of her time plotting escape and that's one of the reasons we love her, but do we need to hear about it every single time?
I really tried to avoid the temptation of the Simon Cowell meme, but it was stronger than me. I regret nothing. Anyhoo, despite these little issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.
- Good character development and no huge story gaps (e.g. A meets B, they fall in love, and get married in one chapter)
- Say buh-bye to typical dystopian tropes
- SO. MANY. FEELS.
- Wee plot inconsistencies, but nothing hugely distracting
- Occasionally slow; how many escape attempts can we read about before we get bored?
- SO. MANY. FEELS.