Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter
Release date: November 26th, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: #1 in the Blackcoat Rebellion
Source: ARC traded by Kelly/ e-galley from Edelweiss
Rating: A surprisingly entertaining, unsettling read, full of mysteries, surprise reveals, and dystopian delights.
YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING.
For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.
If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.
There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.
Most book bloggers (me included, sometimes) will readily inform you that on the whole, they are most decidedly dystopia-ed out. It seems like one out of every five books is a dystopian these days, and, worse, they're dystopians we've read before. It's The Giver. It's The Hunger Games. It's Divergent or Matched or etc. etc. etc.
The thing about Pawn is, it doesn't really reinvent the dystopian wheel. And yet for some odd reason, it feels fresh. I truly love dystopians and am so not ready to declare a moratorium on them, and Pawn is proof that you shouldn't, either.
|I will NEVER give up on dystopians!|
Why? I'm not sure. The world building is pretty typical, with the world divided into castes, an aptitude test on your seventeenth birthday that determines your your career and your position in society, and an all-powerful ruling family who control politics, the media, and every aspect of life. Enter orphan Kitty Doe, our feisty, stubborn, and pretty darn sympathetic heroine has the supreme misfortune to be earn a III on her aptitude exam, meaning she's relegated to a life of cleaning sewers. naturally, she is less than thrilled about this, and decides to do whatever she can to change her fate and stay in the city with the boy she loves, Benjy.
Obviously THE FATES HAVE DIFFERENT PLANS. And by the fates, I mean the Harts, who are the evillest evils to ever evil. They're that aforementioned family in charge of everything, and they need Kitty to become Lila Hart, the most famous girl in the country... or else. Basically, it's like the dystopian version of Airhead by Meg Cabot, a book I found equal measures absurd and entertaining. Carter takes the concept of having to take over a dead girl's life--a girl whose life, on the surface, seems a thousand times better and more luxurious and easier than yours--and makes it grim, gritty, and all kinds of disturbing (ELSEWHERE!!!!!!!!! HOLY CRAP ELSEWHERE).
I haven't read Carter's first series, so I can't say how the characters in Pawn compare to the ones in those books, but I was surprised by how much I loved Kitty. Are her motivations a bit too (read: a lot too) Benjy-motivated for my taste? Sure. But still, I found her relatable and not at all lacking in personality and really great flaws and strengths.
"Would you like to dance?"
I would rather have banged my head against the table repeatedly, but when the alternative was listening to a dozen people talk at once, dancing didn't seem so bad after all.
Kitty, this is why I like you.
So Kitty becomes Lila, and not only does she have have to convince people that she's her, but she has to stop the rebellion Lila encouraged, she has to become betrothed to Lila's fiance, Knox, and she needs to make sure that Benjy stays safe. Kitty has to deal with being this pawn that's under the control of two opposing forces, and she struggles with regaining power over her own life. What I love about this book is that it's full of tension throughout. Nobody is who they say they are, motives are murky (though I figured out a few characters pretty quickly), and it's full of bad choices. What I mean is that characters are constantly having to pick between a rock and a hard place, between a worse thing and a WORSER thing, and to me that's the cornerstone of really good drama. Or the cornerrock. I guess.
Besides Kitty, the other characters are... okay. My love triangle alarm bells were ringing, but they were false alarm bells, which was nice. (I worry for the future books a bit). Much of the dialogue from the "villains" is a bit on the nose, but not terribly so. They are still effectively evil and underhanded and whatnot. Augusta, though. MAN. SHE GAVE ME THE HEEBY JEEBIES AT THE END. Augusta is stone cold evil SCARY. She's a twisted woman with twisted motivations, but I get her. She's a great villain in that sense. The Masking business is also exceptionally creepy, and Carter isn't afraid to make our skins crawl due to this body snatcher-esque business.
The book, while being massively entertaining and highly engaging, isn't perfect. I was dying for more Benjy development--he's the main love interest, after all, and all I really know about him is that he's redhaired, smart, and Kitty loves him. Oo, and also a bit more Benjy-Kitty development, because what we did know about them together was pretty cute. I wanted to understand more about them. Also, I'm a very visual reader, and Carter I wouldn't say is an extremely visual writer, so I ended up supplying most of those details myself. A couple reveals are like, "No duh," and a couple others are like, "Say whaaaaaat?!"
I wanted a few more world-building explanations, but the things we did learn? HARD. CORE. Elsewhere, you guys. ELSEWHERE.
I haven't been so horrified and shocked by a book in a while. If you do not gasp audibly, you are made of stronger stuff than I am.