Written by Haley Sulich
Published by Write Plan
Publication date: 10th May 2018
Age range: 16+
Summary (from Goodreads):
You may live as a soldier or face death. Choose wisely.
Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.
After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.
Ember knows she can’t hide the truth forever, but Solanine has secrets too.
As their worlds clash, the two sisters must decide if their relationship is worth fighting for. And one wrong move could destroy everything—and everyone—in their path.
Giveaway at the bottom of this post!
Something about the City of Graven pulls me in. Maybe it’s the sense of security only a set routine can bring. Maybe it’s the comfortable live I’m living without having to hunt for my next meal. Maybe it’s the lack of pain I feel.
Maybe it’s because I finally belong as one of the Blinded.
The people may pretend with their forced laughter. False smiles. Dead eyes. But all of this is the result of conforming. To belong means to give up your dreams. Your identity.
Giving mine up is easy because the past has always been full of suffering. I’ve spilled too much blood. I don’t have to be a house burned in the flames anymore, where returning to the place of destruction brings painful memories. No objects remain to serve as a reminder of where I came from or who I was.
In the City of Graven, I don’t have to look back at the crimson stains on the ash.
I was initially drawn to this book because of the focus on the relationship between the sisters. I really like strong sibling relationships in books, particularly as there is so often a tension between the love for your family and the competitiveness or sibling rivalry.
I was surprised by how dark some of the themes in this book were and I think this is a worthy addition to dystopian visions of the future. I really liked how Solanine and Ember were built up as characters and their development throughout the story. In such a bleak world, where almost everything they try goes wrong, their relationship provides a flash of brightness and hope.
At times, I found the change in perspectives difficult to follow and I was confused by the antagonist’s motivation – what was he trying to achieve? This added to the sense of menace, but I do enjoy it when a villain is flesh-out too.
Overall, this would be enjoyed by people who are already fans of the dystopian genre, particularly those who would appreciate a bit more grittiness and realism in their future visions.
Ember takes a few steps forward, then hesitates before sitting next to Solanine. Silences descends upon the sisters for eternity as if no words can mend what lies between them. They have been through hell and back over the years, but they experienced different Hells. Even though they rest only inches apart, worlds of distance separate them.
What I liked: Acknowledgement of mental health struggles and various coping mechanisms such as self-harm and alcoholism – I think this is very realistic. In a post-apocalyptic world most of us would fall apart rather than find reserves of inner strength so we would be likely to choose the ease of giving up on our dreams and living as drones in the city – those left outside this system would have a lot to deal with and it is inevitable that mental health problems would become more prevalent and people would develop their own ways of numbing the pain as the healthcare system and other support networks are not there to help. I liked the description of the grieving process and the acceptance of love in any form it takes. I also really liked the description of how conformity and social cohesion comes at the cost of persona dreams and aspirations.
Even better if: I would have liked to know more about the villain’s motivation – we never really find out what his overall vision is or what he is hoping to achieve with his dictatorial control. Is he insane or is there a hidden meaning to his actions? I found it a bit jarring that Ember’s chapters were told in first person, while Solanine’s were told in 3rd person. I am assuming that this was a choice made by the author to keep the two voices distinct, but I did find that it distanced me slightly from Solanine and her feelings.
How you could use it in your classroom: I would not recommend using this in a primary or secondary classroom as there is a lot of adult content – violence, mental health, drinking and sex. However, I could see this being used at a tertiary level or in adult reading groups to prompt discussion about the pros and cons of state control over the individual and how various mental health problems can be addressed.
(Thank you to Netgalley and Write Plan for my e-ARC)
Thank you to Bookshelf B*tch for including me in the Blog tour!
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE
05 March (Monday)
Crimson Ash blog tour launch That Bookshelf B*tch
Review and author interview from Lost in Pages
Review and author interview from Chrikaru Reads
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Read the first 5 chapters on Wattpad here.