So unbelievably excited this book came to Bookish First! It's been on my Most Anticipated list ever since The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe was announced. There was a huge resurgence of dystopia in the early 2000s, then it wasn't published as much, and now I see it proving itself to be a much demanded genre in YA again! Woohoo! Even so, there's a relative dearth of YA Sci-Fi in comparison to other genres, and I don't read as much of it as I should. Fingers crossed for a review copy!
Set in a dystopian world where the Outpost is the only way to eke out survival, Poe and her boyfriend Call mine gold for the ruthless, driven Admiral. Neither wants the stale, dust-driven life of child-rearing and drudgery, of stifled freedoms and same ol' same ol'. So when the opportunity comes to join the mining ship that's dredging gold from the river, even though it's dangerous work, the chance to flee and escape to lakes and forests and find out if there's anything MORE out there is a powerful draw that has Poe and Call signing up in a heartbeat. Even though neither has the faintest idea WHY the Admiral covets the gold. As a means of currency, it falls short.
Poe: "We all know that the Admiral wants to help the Outpost thrive. He thinks that getting more gold can help us do that, but I’m not entirely sure why. We’ve mined enough to last us for a while, and there’s not really anyone to trade with anymore. We need so many other things. Cleaner air, more water,better medicine, ways to rehabilitate the land. All gold does is gild the time until we die."
So what good is gold? Good question, Poe. Good question.
But there's another side vying for the gold, too. The river raiders, who make short work of boarding Poe's ship and killing Call in cold blood. The rest of the First Look is bleak, with a detached Poe serving as the Admiral's left hand—the Devil's hand, as the people of the Outpost call it. And Poe herself, since returning two years ago with a weaponist's mind and thirst for blood, allied with those in power at the Outpost, is someone to be feared.
Poe herself is a very complex character, emotionally detached and so different from the girl full of hope and dreams and longing from the first chapter. The pain and trauma of losing Call hounds her and the reader through the chapters, always a reminder of why Poe does what she does and is what she is. Poe's black moment doggedly follows us on her journey, as we touch on what makes dystopia so fun from a reader's standpoint: decision-making and the emotional and physical tolls that can take; human nature at its finest and at its worst; and the imbalance of power. And TLVOPB does all those things so very, very well.
Other things I enjoyed!
- Intricate, intimate descriptions of the ship.
- The main character driven by vengeance.
- Romance as a subplot.
- Tangible exploration of grief and revenge.
- Fully realized main character, on the verge of being unlikeable (but hey, I love - unlikeable characters), but is definitely relatable.
I haven't read her previous series, Matched, so I can't compare the writing style, but I really enjoyed the prose of TLVOPB. It was somewhere between lush and spare—it didn't make a meal out of its descriptions, but other than some questions about the hows and whys of their dystopia (which is fine, the Walking Dead took this tack and never revealed a thing about how the zombie apocalypse started...even severa seasons and a spinoff later LOL), I didn't feel the worldbuilding was lacking—far from, it was exceptionally evocative.
AND THE COVER. I hope it'll be gold foiled on the hardback! Heart eyes forever.