It’s been a while since I reviewed any dystopian science-fiction, despite its continuing popularity, and so I figured that I’d take a look at one for today’s review. E was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Kate Wrath. It tells the story of a young woman who is forced to survive life on the streets in a hostile world. The novel is the first part of a planned series, although at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Outpost Three is a notoriously dangerous town. Although robot sentries patrol the streets, dolling out instant punishments to those found guilty of breaking the ten laws that society is built upon, criminals have developed increasingly creative means to fool them and continue to break the law.

When a young woman wakes in an alley with no memory of who she is, she knows that she has to make herself invisible in order to survive. Taking on the name Eden, she is forced to spend her days sifting through trash to earn a meagre pay, while all the while being blackmailed and abused by the other petty thugs that stalk the dark alleys.

After winning a tidy sum in a game of poker, Eden attracts the attention of Apollon and Jonas – a pair of jack of all trades – who invite her to join their “family”. Finally safe, Eden works hard to help them to provide for the group. But her happiness can’t last. Political tension in the Outpost is growing. Grey, the leader of Outpost Two, has decided that he wishes to control Outpost Three as well and cuts off food supplies to the town in preparation for attack. As dissatisfaction and starvation take hold the only hope for Eden’s family is to flee south to Outpost Four but, with sickness and hunger rife, how can they hope to survive the perilous journey?

I feel that I should begin this review by warning that this novel is not a pleasant read. By that, I do not mean that it’s a bad novel by any means, but rather that it covers a subject matter that may make some readers uncomfortable. This includes scenes of torture, graphic violence and child death. If you’re sensitive to such things, it’s probably best to stay clear of this book.

In E, Wrath creates a setting that is utterly unforgettable. Eden’s world is brutal and uncompromising, which often makes her story a very uncomfortable read. There is little brevity in the story and usually if anything good happens to Eden it is immediately followed by tragedy. In one particularly sad scene, Eden saves a baby from the arms of its dead mother only for the new born to die as she tries to carry it to safety. The setting of Outpost Three is endlessly bleak and for me this made reading about it utterly compelling. Every time I thought that the situation could not get any worse, the novel surprised me by somehow making Eden’s world even more depressing.

Unfortunately, the novel really lacked any explanation of how this world came to be in such a state. In an early section of exposition, Eden reveals that the sentries were constructed to upkeep ten basic laws yet we don’t get any background as to why, when and how this system came to be. This was a shame as I don’t feel that the sentry system was particularly well thought out, given how open it was to abuse. It would have been interesting to discover why they were chosen over any other possible alternative.

The political elements of the plot offered interesting ethical depth to the story. One of the early questions raised is the idea of nature versus nurture – whether criminals would transgress again if they had their sense of self erased and were placed back into a different area of society. The other theme that I found interesting was that of the lesser of two evils. Personified in the story by Matthew, the wild-card leader of Outpost Three, and Grey, the outright evil leader of Outpost Two, the novel constantly raised the question to Eden of which was the best to side with. Although this seemed at first like a no-brainer, it grew increasingly complicated as the story progressed. Was it worth siding with Grey for a food whilst knowing that many would still die at his hands, or stay with the somewhat more reasonable Matt and starve? The story offered no clear answers, leaving the reader to decide whether Eden’s eventual decision was the correct one.

My primary issue with the plot was that no questions were answered. While the story raised many things – Eden’s nightmares, the creation of the sentries, her history with Jonas, as well as several more spoilerific ones towards the climax – it answered none. While I appreciate that the author may be saving these for the sequel, I would have liked to have received a little more closure within this book as it left the story feeling more like an introduction to the series and less of a complete story in its own right.

However, the best thing about E was that it brings a cast of incredibly strong female characters. Eden is a very relatable protagonist and proves to be capable in a crisis, more than able to cope by herself without the need for constant protection. Although she is not the strongest person in the novel physically, she is highly intelligent and able to stand her ground against even the most vile of villains. My only real problem with her was that I found some of her language to be a little flowery, particularly when describing atrocities, as this detracted a little from the horror of the situation.

The supporting cast, especially Eden’s family, were also very strong and I found myself genuinely concerned whenever they were in peril. My favourite was Miranda, as I felt that she went from strength to strength, growing from her experiences and become a stronger character because of them. Matthew was also a great character, proving a wildly unpredictable antagonist. I thoroughly enjoyed every scene with him in as you never knew quite how he would behave.

So, in conclusion, E is a fantastic debut. Although it contained some purple prose and offered little conclusion for the many questions that it raised, it was a dark and intelligently written novel which took its audience very seriously. It also contained a very well rounded cast of completely unforgettable characters and a female lead that was able to hold her own without the constant need of rescue. This novel really left me wanting more and I look forward to the release of its sequel.

E can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. katewrath1
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 12:26:14

    What a fantastic review with some very astute observations, Kim. Nothing gets past you! I do have answers for all your questions– even the Sentries, but you are right, I have purposely left things out and raised more questions than I’ve given answers in this story. The second book is scheduled for release on November 12th. Some of the questions begin to get answers during the next segment of the story as they are revealed to the characters. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading E. Thanks a ton for taking the time to read it and review it! 🙂


    • Kim
      Sep 26, 2014 @ 12:34:10

      Hello. I’m glad you liked the review. I’m pleased to hear that book 2 comes with a side of answers and really look forward to getting my teeth into it. Roll on November!


  2. Trackback: E Book 2 Release Dates, Upcoming Cover Reveal, Another Review, and Rats! | Kate Wrath
  3. Trackback: 1st Anniversary! | Arkham Reviews

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