Author(s): Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Series: Heart of Dread #1
Genre: YA Fantasy/Dystopian
Edition Read: Hardcover
Blurb: From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.
Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.
At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she’s heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.
But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.
I have owned this book for six year now, I think – the hardcover edition, no less – and finally, just now, got around to reading it. Sigh. I first heard about it (and saw both of the authors speak) at YallFest many years ago. Was it worth the wait? Well . . . mostly.
First off, I really enjoyed the setting. I do love a good dystopian setting and this did not disappoint. The world is a frozen wasteland, however there is a legend about this place called the Blue out in the ocean where it is warm and beautiful. I also liked that this book is primarily a travel book. The characters are trying to get out to the Blue, so a large part of the book is first the journey from New Vegas to the coast, and then a journey by boat to try and find the Blue. I do love a good road trip!
I also really liked the concept of the marked. They can hide among the “normal” folk but have conspicuous eye colors and a mark on their skin somewhere. Nat is lucky because hers is somewhere where people can’t usually see it, but others we meet have it on their faces, which is more difficult. Speaking of Nat, I liked her as a character. She was very conflicted, trying to hide who she was and survive, but also trying to figure out exactly who and what she was. The marked usually have powers, which she definitely does, but controlling them is another thing entirely. I also really liked Wes. An ex-military man (despite only being a teenager – folks die young in this world, so they live life young too), he is now a hired mercenary taking jobs to keep himself and his crew alive. I really liked how he had a sense of loyalty to his ragtag group, even the ones who were horrible people. They were his crew and he was responsible for them.
The main complaint that I had with this book, which did ruin it a bit for me, was that the ending felt super rushed. It also felt like the answers to everything at the end were easy and not much of a fight. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I was really expecting a big battle of some sort (given the all the players involved) and felt a bit let down by it. Which is a shame, because I liked the rest of the book a lot, but the ending was just meh. That said, I would still recommend the book to people who love YA dystopian stories because the world building was top notch. I just wish the ending had been better.
GoodReads rating: 3 stars
Categories: Books I've Read
I am not the biggest fan of dystopian books. However, I do love incredible world-building- I read a lot of incredible worlds last year- from Shades of Magic to His Dark Materials for example.
World building is key for any book not set in the here and now. Even for historical fiction – I don’t know what that world was like so I appreciate when authors do their homework. I think creating your own version of the world would be more difficult since you have nothing else to draw on and have to build the whole thing from scratch.
In my MG fantasy, I managed to create a new world- yes The Cattail Forest isn’t expansive, but I still love it