In a dystopian world created by Lorraine Thomson, Sorrel lives in her small village. Her life is unrewarding, but easy. She has a blooming love with her childhood friend David, a lifelong nemesis named Mara, a struggling relationship with her mother, and two younger siblings to take care of. When mutants attack her village, though, her whole world is flipped on its head. Her mother is killed, her friends and brother taken, and her entire home burned to the ground. Now, she must navigate a strange and complicated world with only her knife and feisty personality to keep her safe.
I was drawn to this book by the summary provided. The description of the "Before" world and the "Now" was interesting, especially once you find out that the main antagonists of the story are mutants. Although, these are less like X-Men mutants and more like the survivors of a nuclear holocaust. I've always loved dystopian stories and I was especially encouraged by having a female main character.
The world created in The New Dark is interesting and creative. There are veiled references to the "Before" AKA our modern world, with cars and shopping malls. It's unclear what happened to our world, but it's implied there's been some sort of nuclear war. Technology has been set back by about 500 years, some children are born as mutants who are either killed or cast out to live in exile, and humanity survives in small pockets of diverse communities. It was fun to explore this world, figure out what the new rules are, and watch Sorrel explore without the help of a guide. What's great about this version of reality is the lack of black and white values. No character is purely evil or purely good, the main characters and antagonists included.
The plot was quick and exciting. It was incredibly quick paced and I was able to read it in a day. There's few moments of rest, which is sometimes exhausting but mostly exciting. The narration alternates between Sorrel's point of view as the traverses the wild world she's found herself in and David, who has been sold into slavery. During Sorrel's story, she encounters humans, mutants and monsters of all sorts. She learns to trust no one and gets herself in a good bit of trouble. In David's side of the story, he fights for freedom for himself and the other young people of Sorrel's village while continually getting himself in even worse situations. I sometimes enjoyed the alternative perspectives, but other times felt frustrated and manipulated when the author ended on a cliff hanger and then jumped to a different point of view. Additionally, its clear that there is a sequel in the works, so the ending left me feeling confused and curious.
The part of the novel I struggled with the most was the characters. Since we jump so quickly into the story and don't get to spend much time with these characters before the mutants attack, it's hard to feel attached to them. Once we're into the heavy action of the plot we never get to learn about these characters or have them develop. It was difficult to connect to Sorrel or David or truly understand why they felt such a strong romantic connection to each other. I can see that the author wants them to be together, but I don't know enough about the characters and their relationships to feel like I would fight along side them for their relationship. I understand both Sorrel and David on a superficial level, but struggle to describe them beyond a "strong female archetype" and "loyal male hero archetype."
The book is great for lovers of fantasy and science fiction, specifically those who like dystopian stories. You can expect a quick and entertaining read for this book, but don't expect to dig much into the characters or have a full conclusion at the end. I'm interested to read more of this author's work and see if the next book offers some closure that the first in the series left open.