Honestly, these aren’t the usual books I usually go seeking out to read. I took this book for review mostly because I’m always intrigued by stories where there’s a government in power that is controlling the lives of the people they say they protect and love. I always look for the lies “the powers that be” spin and wait for the lies to be spit back at them by the revolting serfs (huz zah!) Down with oppression!
In this dystopian tale, the governing body is in the form of a “religion” that seeks to keep people out of the “darkness” by ensuring that everyone follows the rules of the “light”. These “rules” include no free thinking… say what?!?! As in, no dreaming!! You have no future, you will live your basic life, have the prescribed number of children you’re allowed, and “light” help you if play an instrument other than a flute or indulge in sweets.
But what happens when after 1000 years under strict rule, the young start to dream of far off places? Dream of stories untold? To actually have imaginations? To seek knowledge?
That’s what this book delves into: the future rise out of a dark age. They say history repeats itself…
Setting / World Building
When our story starts, we are transported to a rural village getting ready to hold a festival. It sounds absolutely idyllic. Unfortunately, it’s all an illusion. Mr. Litwack does an excellent job describing a village set out in the middle of nowhere. I pictured something from the frontier days of the old west.
Our main characters are Nathaniel, Orah and Thomas. They’ve grown up together and are best friends. What I like best about these characters is that each one lends a different voice to the story with their own biases . Each character is unique with their strengths and weaknesses. Each character is pretty thoroughly “fleshed out”.
This book has many, many points of view and Mr. Litwack switches up the “voice” to match the scene or better describe what is going on in the story. I personally enjoyed this as it kept the tale interesting.
My only gripe is that Orah didn’t act like a typical teenage girl when it came to guys. Yeah, she had guy crushes. But she always led with her brain first, heart second. Me, when I was her age, it was all about the boys! I guess living a simple existence does that to a girl: has her thirsting for knowledge first, boys second.
Story / Tempo
The story is a pretty straightforward adventure. It was a fast, easy read. Although not a nail biter or page turner, it still kept my attention until the ending excitement.
I could easily see this book discussed for a book club. I don’t want to spoil anything for the reader but there are just so many references to our history that it would make for some fascinating discussions. Plenty of discussion questions could be gleaned from this story!
Overall, despite the fact that I normally don’t seek out dystopian books, I really liked this complex story of a society caught up in the latest version of the Dark Ages.