In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.
The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
Another dystopia book I thought when I picked this up free from Amazon Prime readers club. Have to say the cover caught me first, a crackling purplely blue that had the desired effect to make me electrified. The blurb though had me hooked from the start, I’d have probably paid for the book if it hadn’t be free, it sounded that good. Magic, immigration, a hint of good against evil all had me mentally salivating at the prospect of what was to come. Would I be disappointed? Only time would tell.
The world created by Victoria Lee sounded scaringly like the world we live in today, minus the introduction of magic. It follows the life of the protagonist Noam, an immigrant who is kept in poverty by an uncaring government. He tries his best to help his father, an illegal immigrant, keep safe and away from bring deported whilst helping at the local immigration centre. Here he is a wizard at hacking into government databases to help the immigrants cause. As a consequence he spends time in a detention centre.
A magical outbreak happens in his neighbourhood and Noam wakes up, having been left for dead, in a morgue. The minister of defence, Lehrer, takes an interest in him and hires him for the government and he moves in to the government compound to be taught how to perform magic. Here he meets, among others, Dara the ministers son. Dara is moody, yet Noam slowly falls for him.
The story is expertly written, I was surprised that this was a debut novel. The world created was believable and at the same time it was a terrible place to be alive. The threat of war with other countries is always there, the government clamping down on a restless population, the poverty among it’s citizens in stark contrast with the wealthy who run society. A world you think unbelievable until you sit back and look at the world today.
The three main protagonists, Noam, Dara and Lehrer are all strong and complex people, each life etched into them by the lives they have led. Each has numerous faults, broken people whose personalities are a product of their upbringing, yet all have a human, caring side that is kept hidden. Each has a personal goal which they will do anything to accomplish. I can’t say that I would naturally pick any of them as being the hero, they’re all too broken for that.
The magic in the book isn’t your standard Harry Potter or worst witch, with spells or wands but more complex and rooted in science. It needs you to be able to understand the maths, physics and science behind each spell. Each magic has different powers. I don’t want to spoil the delight of discovering this for yourself, so I’ll leave it there. All I’ll say is that its a very novel and complex process.
This book comes at a very good time. Dystopia it might be, but yet this world is slowly becoming like the one in the book. Fear of those who are different, fear of other religions, fear of outsiders is rife in our society. Take away the magic in the book and you have a true reflection of what is happening across the world.
I can’t rate this book highly enough. It struck an instant chord with me, keeping me hooked to its sound as I wove through the pages. I’ve read some good books lately but this is a triumph, a book that keeps on giving, changing your views as you weave through the protagonists lives. It changed my mind about what dystopia in fiction is. The politics in the book are so real and living. It’s focus on immigration is brilliant. Substitute magic for anyone else feeling let down and alienated and you have the match.
So I have no hesitation in placing this my favourite book of the year so far. Looking forward to the sequel.