As the only child of an elite family, Madeline Landry has grown up in a luxurious world, surrounded by opulence. This has not made her happy: she wants to go to university, but her father and his will (not to mention the law) want her to stay home, get married, run the estate, and pop out an heir. But she’s not entirely unhappy, either: she loves her family and her home and the life. That is, until David Dana — the un-landed son of a member of the gentry — comes into her life. Additionally, the things that have been skirting around the edges of her life — the class issues, the environmental concerns, especially with the lowest class, the Rootless — come front and center.
In many ways, Bethany Hagen is treading the same ground as every dystopian book before her. America falls to the Eastern Empire, only managing to hang on by a thread. In the aftermath, a system is formed based on money and influence. And at the bottom are the Rootless, who handle the nuclear charges the gentry’s energy — and much of the wealth, especially the Landry wealth — comes from. And they’re getting restless. Where Hagen’s dystopia separates from the pack is in the focus: Madeline is one of the elite, not the underclass. And when she has her eyes opened, she stands to lose everything. And I respected that.
I also really enjoyed the world Hagen built, even though she never really gave us an explanation why the women were corseted and shoved into ball gowns and paraded around like it was Victorian England. I’m sure I could come up with some hypotheses, but they are just that. No matter: Hagen is tackling issues that aren’t usually seen in dystopia. Also, she doesn’t have a Romeo & Juliet love story going on here: both Madeline and David are from the gentry, and both have to come to terms with their increasingly dissenting opinions.
It’s not a perfect beginning, but it is an intriguing one. I’m going to be curious to see where the rest of this series goes.
Rated: Mild for talk of violence, though it’s all offscreen; a few mild swear words; and an allusion to an affair.