Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Challenges: TBR Pile Challenge, GoodReads Challenge

I saw this book when I was doing my first order of books for this blog back in Summer of 2011 and I figured it could go one of two ways: either it would be a Hunger Games clone, or it might have some cool echoes of Fallout 3, which I had played a couple years earlier and really enjoyed. For the time being I waited on this--there were a ton of books I wanted back then--but then I also made the mistake of forgetting the name of it.

Flash forward to October of 2012 and I finally wound up with Enclave in my cart. But then I had all the issues with my hands in November and December, so it's had to wait to be read.

Well, that wait is over. The time has come to see whether Enclave is covering ground that's been done before, or whether it is bright and bold enough to march to the beat of it's own drummer. Read on and find out.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)

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.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

This book was very action heavy, yet it managed to do this without resulting in cardboard characters. I feel this is a tough feat to pull off, so I want to get that out there right away. Enclave is a total page turner that had my heart racing, soaring and breaking as I went with Deuce and Fade on their journey. I love how energetic and fierce the fight scenes were. Deuce's determination to become a huntress is balanced brilliantly against the actual nature of what that position means. The varying shades of gray--in the world, the characters, the decisions that had to be made, etc. is awesome.

Another thing that I thought was awesome was how certain ideas and themes echo throughout the book. The value of a person, in relation to their role in society. The ways that we think things are, vs. what is really true. The lies we tell that hurt--or protect--us, and how what they do can alter and shift depending on situation and perspective. I know I'm being vague here, and that is to keep from spoiling some of the most deep and profound moments of the book. But if you read (or have read this) watch for things to echo or connect back. It's pretty fascinating. 

The Characters: 

I've gotten into numerous debates about what it means for a heroine to be strong. Because in certain stories, I just don't buy that we need the "OMG I'm gonna kick your ass, fool!" heroine, regardless of genre. Deuce started out as a very strong, tough character. But what I really love about her--and this book--is that her view on what constitutes strength, and her perception of whether she is strong, changes as the story moves along. I appreciated the moments where we got to see Deuce's vulnerability, got to see her struggle with ideas she had been taught all her life and had to question them. It made me really want to get to know her; really want to see who the real Deuce would be when all was said and done. 

Fade starts out seeming a little sullen and moody, but as the story progresses we learn that he has some very good reasons and we also get to see a softer, more compassionate side to his character. I really like the fact that being around Fade helps Deuce gradually change her views, and how this eventually effects what happens when we meet Stalker and Tegan. I also really admired Fade's loyalty to Deuce. From pretty much word go he has her back, even if he isn't always thrilled with her. I didn't find Fade "swoon-worthy" so much as I found him very strong and devoted, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Just a quick note on other characters--as I said earlier, I loved how people weren't always what they seemed. Watch out for Twist, Silk, Stone, Banner, Stalker and Tegan to name a few. Overall, I thought that the characterization in Enclave was awesome because Ann was not afraid to let her characters grow and change. 

The Romance: 

Enclave had a bit of a love triangle, and while I wasn't sure I'd buy into it at first, by the end I was very deeply torn between Fade and Stalker. Both care about Deuce in their own unique way and both have good points and flaws. If I had to make a wager, my money is on Fade--first boy rule and cleaner slate tip the odds in his favorite, from what I read in this book. But it was still fun getting to see how each pairing would work and the moments between the characters worked as a nice interlude between action sequences, keeping me from getting numb, bored or dizzy. 

In General: 

In the end, Enclave is neither a Hunger Games Clone or a book version of Fallout 3 (though it did give me that kinda vibe, which was great.). It's truly its own thing--a rich story that blends interesting, growing characters with tons of action to create a book that is impossible to put down. If you've held off on reading this for any reason other then being tired of reading dystopians, Enclave is a book that I highly recommend. I'm so glad I picked this as my first book read for 2013, because it definitely started my year with a bang. 

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