After several nuclear bombs have been detonated on Earth the survivors followed the new leader Sirin and his teaching of excising emotion to guarantee peace and survival. Almost 500 years later humanity is still rebuilding itself and the new Order shuns everything to do with the past age of Chaos that lead to destruction. All emotions with the exception of fear have been genetically eliminated and people live to serve Order and to be guided by it. When Rom discovers a vial of ancient blood that promises "life" and takes one of the five portions he awakens everything about himself that is human. But the vial came with a task encrypted on piece of velum and now Rom and four of his newly-alive friends must find out what it means and complete their quest. Everything they know and believe will be tested and all their strength and courage will be required to survive for dark powers want nothing more but to kill them and claim what they possess.
When I first saw the galley of this book on NetGalley I was intrigued by the cover. The whole "metal badge on a stone wall" design was appealing all by itself but with the bleeding heart in the middle the concept became that much more interesting. But there it sat, waiting for its time, which finally came late last week. I was immediately swept into this odd world where people feel nothing but fear and into Rom's life that's turned upside down when an old man gives him a mysterious box and almost immediately gets killed for it. I felt for this simple young man who didn't ask for anything that follows, who struggles with the onslaught of feelings that couldn't be any more strange. I hoped that the bad guys would fail once and for all and yet I knew that things couldn't be that simple. I recoiled at the twisted and horrific things the villains did and wondered about their leader's apparent omniscience.
There are plenty of dark and terrible things in this book and at first all the violence and blood spilling shocked me a bit but then I remembered that this is not a YA book and kept reading. Everything that happened made sense and I'm not sure that the book would've gripped me as it did had the authors shied away from the blood and gore or even toned it down. Morbid of me? Maybe. Doesn't make the book any worse.
The combination of highly advanced science and hardly any technology accessible to the masses creates a very interesting atmosphere. It kept me wondering what else was possible in this strange society, what else wasn't destroyed and what kind of advancements were actually made in the centuries when the world's population just tried to survive. The last several chapters sure opened up a lot of possibilities.
There are some things that weren't very believable. No matter how trusting people are how many times can the same trick really work? Wouldn't they be on the lookout for that exact thing? Shouldn't they be on the lookout for it? Similarly, if someone knows that something that doesn't fit with their plans is going to happen and they know when exactly it'll happen and where wouldn't they take steps to prevent it? Apparently not in this world.
The book didn't end on a cliff-hanger and I'm grateful for that - we all know what it's like to impatiently wait for a year or more to find out what happens next. The authors tied up the plot threads without leaving any loose ends but making plenty of promises for the sequel and giving an idea of what to expect in the future books of the series. I'm still wondering what will happen next, but at least I can wait without biting my nails to nothing.
The galley of this book was provided by Center Street, the publisher, via NetGalley.com