Once again, I read a book while working on a jury that I would not likely have read! I know Erin Bow to be a talented and respected writer whose books have won accolades and awards galore. But, this was a dystopian novel that cautions us to think clearly about how our behaviors today in relation to the Earth are going to impact the future of the planet. I don't often read dystopian novels - and that is my 'bad'. It is a chilling look, full of unexpected twists, terrific characters and an incredibly well-constructed narrative!
The effects of war and pandemics have laid waste to Earth as we know it today. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has determined that something be done with the humans who have caused such catastrophe. Talis, the AI ruler, decides that there is only one way to prevent war between nations - each nation on the planet will send a royal child as hostage to a controlled Precepture. Should any nation declare was, their hostage will be killed.
Greta is the Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, sent as a 5 year old to ensure peace for her country. At close to 18 and ready for release, she is seen as a leader among the other teenage hostages. She is well-educated, brilliant and prepared for death with dignity if the situation arises. Then, she meets Elian.
Elian, a hostage from an enemy nation threatening war with Greta's country over water rights, is bent on creating chaos for their handlers, and for Talis. He is unruly, and brazen in his dealings with authority. His presence and actions put all of the hostages at risk. Watching what happens to Elian following any altercations with authority is disturbing to all of them. Greta's perceptions of her life as it has been lived take a sharp turn, allying her with Elian. Will the threat of war between their two nations change that alliance? Will humans continue to destroy Earth even when their own children are the price to be paid? Does the often disrespectful, and almost always humorous, Talis have a better perspective on successful leadership than proven world leaders? There are many questions to be considered by thoughtful and inspired readers. Are there any easy answers?
Beautifully imagined and written, it is a book that deals with grand questions, violence, romance and dark humor and challenges readers to have an opinion.