A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.
A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.
Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids
Firstly a thank you to Rebecca Crunden for providing me with a copy of her novel for review. Whilst there was a lot about this book that I did enjoy, there was also a lot that I unfortunately didn’t. The start is strong, the opener is vivid and really drew me in, the mystery of the person who escaped the gallows only to be treated with utmost cruelty was intriguing and the hints of characters from whom I expected big things from. However, we then cut to a period two years later and that’s where things got confusing. The blurb helps and I wish I had read it again before starting the book, however, I was left with a sense of not really understanding who our characters were, why they were in their current situation and why they sounded like a down and out, alcoholic old married couple, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. I struggled to like either of them, which was a surprise given how much the prison guard from the opener had instantly endeared himself. Because of this I didn’t really feel like I was attaching enough weight to things I should have in this first part. These 2 are our protagonists Catherine (Kitty) and Nate and truly I didn’t feel like I got to grips with them until they found themselves on the run which is when they started to come into their own.
Kitty has the bigger arc of the two, she starts as your typical bratty daddy’s girl but her ability to quickly adapt to her surroundings and become resourceful was great to read. The two find themselves in situations which aren’t for the fainthearted and I found many parts compelling and I was quickly swept up in their journey. I struggled with Nate throughout though, despite his physical plight, I did not enjoy his attitude towards Kitty and the way he felt she should respond to his unrequited feelings, The narrative choice was to reveal things as the story went on, giving me little lightbulb moments in which the confusing opening stages started to fit into place, personally this didn’t work for me and I would have liked some hand holding at the start as I think had I felt clearer I would enjoyed the first part of the book a great deal more.
The author pitched the story to me as a sci-fi/dystopian/romance, usually I’m not a huge romance reader and whilst there is not a large amount in this book, it’s clearly a prelude to what comes next. This will be a relationship that I know I will find problematic because of it’s beginnings. We are firmly into enemies to lovers territory with the whisper of a potential awkward triangle looming. Kitty and Nate however, do make a great team despite their medical anomaly forcing them into it, they bounce well off one another to find ways around their problems. The sci-fi is subtle and I particularly liked the way the showers worked with their healing lotions and potions, but other than the use of the hovers to give a futuristic twist we’re quite firmly into traditional dystopian territory.
Crunden has a lovely descriptive writing style though and I really felt in the moment for most of the story. I could visualise clearly the landscapes and Nate’s deterioration as well as the happier moments when they are camped. The final stage had a completed different feel to me and almost had a historical fantasy vibe which i actually quite liked, Kitty’s transformation is wonderful and despite the situation she finds herself in it’s clear that everything she has been through has built to that point. It was both frightening and uplifting with an ending which felt that the story had found itself finally comfortable in it’s skin.
This is a story which has a ton of potential and I can see why so many have found it enjoyable, it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.