The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.
But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
This story is basically a cross between Hunger Games and Divergent, so, if you’ve read those, you’ll know exactly what to expect. The pacing is quick, the tension keeps you engaged, and the writing is good. But it’s not really any different from what else is already out there.
Cia is an okay character. She’s a good person and likable, and I feel I got to know her well. She did change and grow as the story progressed, and she became more and more likeable toward the end. I like her ingenuity and desire to help others, but I didn’t really feel her rage toward the end. Nor did I ever get a good sense of Tomas. Cia tells us that he’s a good person and that he always looks to help others, but we don’t get to see much of it. Granted, Cia and Tomas have a history before they were chosen for Testing, so this was probably done on purpose. But, to me, it still felt contrived.
Even knowing exactly what kind of book this was, and knowing how it was going to end, it still kept my interest. I was curious how it was going to end, and the action kept me reading. But there was one thing I could not get over: I did not buy into the basic premise, and that interfered with my enjoyment of the entire book. Which is a shame, because the writing is good and the action scenes are intense and thoroughly enjoyable. So, I’m not sure if I’m interested in reading the next book.
Some SPOILERS below:
To me, it seemed like the foundation is the story is that civilization is trying to rebuild and create habitable areas. Yet, the government rounds up their most promising minds and then throws them into situations where three quarters of them will be killed. If the governing body is established and civilization is on its feet, like in Hunger Games, *then* it makes more sense. But to kill your most promising when you’re still researching and rebuilding and trying to feed your own people is way too short-sighted for any halfway decent leader. Even if the leader is corrupt and only looking for a particular mindset, he would not squander a skilled mind. Instead, he would use it, at the very least, for personal gain. I could not get over this, and it colored everything as slightly contrived for me.