Shelf Awareness: Joelle Charbonneau melds coming-of-age themes with the suspense of a detective story in this second installment of a planned trilogy, with an intellectual narrative more complex than most dystopian literature.
Malencia “Cia” Vale continues her quest for knowledge, and her life in the dystopian United Commonwealth, a future U.S. that is rebuilding after worldwide political and environmental upheaval. Now a student at Tosu City University in the capital, Cia can’t remember the trauma and betrayals that befell her in the previous novel because her memories were erased. But an innate distrust of university officials keeps her cautious. “While my classmates are concerned about the test affecting the years ahead,” she thinks, “I worry I will not survive the day.” An aptitude test sets Cia on a course of study in government, earmarking her for leadership, despite her strong interest in mechanical engineering. But why groom her for leadership and then set her up for failure, by scheduling her for nine courses when everyone else has five? Cia confronts both physical and emotional challenges with a brilliant analytical mind. In her flashes of memory, she is haunted by the feeling that to fail is to die.
Charbonneau’s skillful use of Cia’s measured and calculating internal dialogue to maintain nail-biting tension is a literary step above the action and gore that propel other series. Fans will be waiting impatiently for the conclusion of Cia’s journey later this year.