Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review: Enclave, Outpost, & Horde

I've just spent a blissful Thanksgiving break putting up Christmas decorations, playing Batman: Arkham Origins, and inhaling the last book in a fantastic action trilogy by Ann Aguirre called Horde.

I had to finish the whole Enclave series before I could review any it, though, because it's less a trilogy and more one book broken into three parts. There's no resolution whatsoever in the first two, and each successive title picks up at the exact moment the last leaves off. Normally I detest these kind of cliffhanger endings, since they leave me feeling cheated out of a complete book, but having finished it I can say now that Enclave is worth the investment.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312551371/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0312551371&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwcakewreckc-20

Enclave is a gritty post-apocalyptic thriller that starts off underground, in the abandoned subway tunnels and sewers. There, in a small barbaric society divided into Builders, Breeders, and Hunters - and where the average life expectancy is only 25 - we meet Deuce. Deuce is a 15-year-old Huntress, tasked with protecting her people from zombie-like creatures called Freaks - who, of course, like to eat people.

I'll be honest, the first few pages didn't grab me right. The whole society-of-hardened-warrior-children thing came off as just too unbelievable. Then the action started. Next thing I knew I was blinking at the clock and wondering where the last three hours went. (You know how that is?)

If you're going to read Enclave, do yourself a favor and already have Outpost on hand. Like I said, no resolution, and DANG are you going to want to know what happens next. The rotten author (I say with all love and respect) even leaves a major character's life hanging in the balance, so you're not sure if that character lives or dies 'til you get to Outpost. NOT COOL.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250034183/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1250034183&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwcakewreckc-20

In Outpost we get a complete change of scenery, as Deuce has left the underground for the first time and ventured Topside, into the sun and the outside world. (I'm leaving out all the spoilery details, promise.) Here she discovers more pockets of survivors - and Freaks -  and starts to unravel the forgotten history of the world's destruction. Throwing in her lot with a small town called Salvation, Deuce again fights to protect the ones she loves.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250024633/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1250024633&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwcakewreckc-20

In Horde, the third and final (yes, we finally DO get a conclusion!) book, Deuce really comes into her own as a leader and warrior. The battles - which are non-stop throughout - get bigger, but at the same time the story hones in on the characters you've come to love and root for, weaving back stories, creating new relationships, and overall just giving this action-thriller a huge amount of heart. Not gonna lie: I cried three or four times during Horde. But at least two of those times were happy tears, so that counts as a wash, right? :) Finishing it reminded me of the first time I finished watching the battle of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers; Aguirre paints war in all its bloody colors, and the ordeal is both exhilarating and exhausting.

Like I said, Enclave is a gritty tale. In addition to the non-stop death and gore, it deals with heftier topics like severe post-traumatic stress disorder and a former rape victim rediscovering her own strength and courage. These are handled masterfully, though, and speaking as someone with a low tolerance for such things, I can say nothing is so graphic as to make you uncomfortable. The horrors and trauma are incredibly believable and realistic, but Aguirre describes them with a sensitivity that spares us the explicit details.

On a more positive note, the gender roles in Enclave - with the exception of the town of Salvation - are a wondrous thing. I love how many strong female leaders we get to meet over the course of the story, but also that the ones in more traditional, non-combative roles are shown to be just as strong. There's even a gentle soul who is essentially a stay-at-home-dad, a nice counterpoint to Deuce's warrior nature.

The love triangle in Enclave doesn't even try to fool us with some "who will she pick?" nonsense, but it does add a believable depth, not to mention one of the most interesting villain-turned-heros I've read in ages. (Stalker and Tegan's story will both make and break your heart. Simply amazing.)

There are obvious parallels here to both the Divergent series and The Hunger Games, but I can assure you Enclave finishes much, MUCH stronger than either of those. (I confess I haven't read Allegiant, but only because I know enough of the plot to know I won't like it. And let's face it: Mockingjay sucked.) We finally get a series that ends right, you guys. Can I get a "WAHOO"? It's huge, it's cinematic, it's gut-wrenching, and it will have your heart rate up 'til the last few chapters. It also ENDS ends, ala Harry Potter, leaving no room for tack-ons, and I respect that. I like to have a good story finished.

So, if you've got time for a good 1200 page read, definitely pick up Enclave, Outpost, and Horde. But don't torture yourself by only having Enclave. Trust me. That wait for the next book will be murder. ;)

64 comments:

  1. I'm reading The Testing....something you might want to try while in this zone. :)

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  2. Woo, The Hunger Games with a good ending! I'm in!

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  3. I love your book reviews. We have similar taste in books, but also because you make reading ABOUT books just as entertaining as reading the books themselves. Sometimes more . . . :0)

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  4. onto the Christmas list it goes!

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  5. Hey, don't hate on Allegiant. The themes are quite different than the first two, and the ending was...well, it was the only possible conclusion. It was one of those that grew on me in the hours and days after I finished it.
    I do love your book reviews, and I appreciate the recommendations. I've derived many hours of pleasure reading stuff you've recommended.

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    1. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. That ending was nonsense and I call shenanigans on the entire series.

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  6. I read the first two before the third was out, and I agree, it was HORRIBLE to not know what happened! LOVE LOVE LOVE these books.

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  7. I guess I'm a rare exception in that I liked the ending to The Hunger Games. *shrugs*

    I finished reading Year Zero by Rob Reid during the Thanksgiving holidays. It's HI-larious and uber geeky. If you liked Ready Player One, you'll probably like this book. It's a pretty quick read as well. I highly recommend it.

    Now, I'm reading Terry Prachett's Thief of Time.

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    1. Thief of Time is one of my favorites. You won't be disappointed :)

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    2. Agreed. I've read all the discworld novels. Thief of Time is one of the very few I've read more than once, and if I remember right, I think I might have read it four times. It's that great.

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    3. You're not alone! I'm not sure why everyone hates the end of Hunger Games so much. I thought it was lovely. "True or False" gets me every time.

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    4. Ditto to everything Sarah Wilson said -- you definitely aren't alone, and I don't understand all the Mockingjay hate. I don't know how else it could have ended, really.

      (And Terry Pratchett is awesome. :) )

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    5. I loved Mockingjay..it was fitting the bleak tone of the series. Though I admit I hoped for more of a happy end for Katniss...

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    6. (Spoilers ahead! If you haven't read Mockingjay LOOK AWAY NOW!)

      I also liked the ending of Mockingjay and didn't understand why so many people were disappointed. In a dark, dystopian series like this, it totally makes seance to (SPOILERS!) kill off some of the main characters in the end. I think it makes the story more believable. People die in real life. Sometimes they are good people who don't deserve to die and sometimes they are not.

      I'm just glad it didn't end like Breaking Dawn where the whole story led up to an epic battle scene that didn't actually happen and no one dies and everything's all puppies and rainbows. Because again, real life isn't always that way either.

      ***SPOILERS*** I am also glad the character that needed to die the most did in fact die, even if it wasn't by Katniss's hand (which apparently, lot of people were upset about). I'm not a fan of revenge killing, so I was relieved to find out that he died anyway.

      Katniss didn't even end up with who I wanted her to from the beginning, but it was the most plausible scenario because they were both so traumatized by the events. I was ok with it for that fact alone.

      These books sound like something I'd totally love - thanks south for your lovely reviews, Jen! I have so many titles to add to my reading list now.

      Now, off to the library!

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  8. I really want to finish this series, but having been so disappointed in the last book in so many series lately I am very wary :/ It does sound like it a good conclusion to the story, so might pick it up next

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  9. I love, love, love this series! Ann Aguirre is an amazing storyteller.

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  10. I read Hunger Games, only the first one, and it just broke my heart in a way i can't describe to people. I like the idea of this book, but i guess with the obvious parallels I'm torn. I haven't read a good book in a while, maybe I should mosey up to the library and check it out. I'll at least give it the 10% chance :)

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  11. Is something up with the notification stuff? I have my email linked up to get an emial when epbot has a new post, and i dind't get this one? (maybe i'm too early idk) I only saw this because i was on facebook. Just wonderin.

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    1. Hmm, not sure. I haven't made any recent changes, but sometimes the RSS feeds go a little wonky. You might try re-subscribing, just in case!

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    2. Its fine now, im not sure what was up, but i got the email for this one way late, but the other posts are coming up fine now. Its all good, i check here almost everyday anyway for fun comments and such :D

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  12. Just thought you should know that I buy nearly every book you recommend for my library. So, thank you!

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    1. I'm hoping that's because I haven't let you down yet, so thanks! :D

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  13. Your book reviews are some of the best I've ever read. I agree with you 100% that Mockingjay was terrible. Right now I'm reading Extras, the 4th book in the Uglies series and I really should have stopped at Specials. Glad to know thos book has a proper ending!

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  14. Have you read the City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau? I've only read the first, but I recently got the other three. (no Half-Price Books for 40 miles from home, it sucks!) At any rate, it's another post-apocalyptic, this one is about Ember, which is a town underground. Enough time has passed that the citizens have no idea of why they're there or that there's anything beyond the light of the city. But stuff starts breaking down. It's a fun read! The sequels are The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold.

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    1. Lovely books those!

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    2. I honestly can't remember if I've read Ember, or just a book with a similar underground storyline - so I think I need to go check it out again. (I did see the movie with Bill Murry. That was... ok. I have no doubt the book was better.)

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    3. I've read City of Ember, and it was AMAZING. its a fairly quick read. I had it read in two days (while working) I didn't know it was a series so i am excited to hunt down the rest. Oh how i love my library

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  15. Thank you for another book post! I love your book reviews and also have found some excellent books from other people's comments on your reviews. Almost everything you recommend goes on my goodreads 'to be read' list and I've enjoyed so many books now from looking at your book list :)

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  16. I've been waiting to read this story until the entire series was out. I'm glad I waited. I didn't even know about the endings. Plus, I hate having to wait for a sequel.

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  17. Somehow I missed that Hoard had been released! I read Enclave before Outpost even came out. Was. Not. Happy. Enclave didn't end on quite as bad a cliffhanger, but still. Aguirre made me grumpy with these.

    The other book of hers I've read is Grimspace. It's not terrible, but I could tell that it was one of her earlier books (maybe even the first?). Definitely got the sense with that one that she was a discovery writer (she is) and that she got to a point in the book where she said, "Well, now what?). Things just took an unexpected turn that I didn't feel was set up well. Or at all.

    But the main character was fun enough to think I might continue on with the series at some point, in hopes that Aguirre's craft improves. I think the Enclave series is proof that it does, so I may have to shortlist a return to the Grimspace world. :)

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    1. Erm, said "Well, now what?" with an endquote, not a paren.

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  18. I haven't read these books, but I got to meet Ann Aguirre at our local convention back in May. She's a super nice woman.

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  19. I'm really, really not a fan of zombies - I find them unbelievably squicky. Are they a big part of the series?

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    1. If anyone had said this book was about zombies, believe me, I wouln't have read it either. Thankfully it's not like most modern zombie tales, though - they don't have limbs falling off or anything; they're just foul-smelling mutants with claws. Er... does that help? :D (And yes, they are the constant enemy throughout the book, although they get a lot more interesting in Horde.)

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  20. Have you read Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow? I haven't read anything but the first book, but I loved it. I think that most YA books are flawed in that the protagonist feels a little too adult. You get a great sense of how young and vulnerable she is (without being annoying), with a core of strength.

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    1. I really loved Strange Angels! The first book was so good with so much action, that I went out and bought the rest of the series. BIG MISTAKE! I was oh so very disappointed with the next two, I haven't even finished the series.

      Maybe you'll like them, and maybe not. But just a fair warning, don't go out and buy the whole series. Maybe try getting the second book from your local library. ;)

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  21. I AM SO GLAD YOU MENTIONED HOW BAD THE ENDING FOR DIVERGENT WAS.

    Sorry, but that pissed me off so hard. I didn't have an issue with Mockingjay, though. Curious about what you didn't like on that one...

    BUT OMG DIVERGENT. Ruined my life.

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    1. Ha! I feel you. Why do books have such power over us?!

      As for Mockingjay (and keep in mind I read it quite a while ago), my main frustration was that Katniss regresses as a person. Her trademark strength is gone; instead of developing into a leader, she allows herself to become a pawn in other people's games, surrendering control in a way that seemed completely out of character - even her last act felt more like a suicide run than a wresting back of control.

      The first two books are all about Katniss' determination to change her own destiny, but in Mockingjay she's slapped down and shown she's just another cog in a greater machine - and she STAYS that way. No growth, pointless deaths, a frustrating lack of purpose, and an ending that just goes, "Meh. Guess I'll just retire with this guy 'cuz he's here or whatever." There's no sense of triumph, no passion, and no happy ending.

      I admit I'm biased, though; I go to fiction to be entertained, not depressed or shown the futility of life. If an ending makes me feel crappy, I can't see past that to the beauty of the writing or whatever; I'm just mad 'cuz now I feel crappy. ;)

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    2. Interesting! I guess I was okay with it because I wanted so desperately for her to end up with Peeta. >.< I'm a sucker for a love story. I assumed that she always loved him, she just spent so much of her life surviving she wasn't able to process romantic feelings - the same with her relationship with Gale. She didn't WANT to fall in love or have children, because life in the districts was so terrible.

      As far as her regressing...I guess I can see that. But it always read to me that she was forced into this tiny box and in order to (try to) rescue everyone she cared about she had to go along with it. You could tell she didn't WANT to be that person, but realized that's what she had to do. I thought the ending when she (SPOILER ALERT, anyone uninformed!!) kills the ruler of District 13 instead of Snow, in order to try to prevent just another dictator, was her way of saying "No one can control me!"

      But I totally agree with you about books ending well. If I want to be sad, I'll watch the news. I don't see how people enjoy reading fiction that is sad!

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    3. Jen, other then (SPOLER ALERT) Prim dying after all I couldn't put my finger on what it was that I didn't like. You just put into words what I couldn't. Thanks! :)

      After seeing the adaptation of Catching Fire though, I have higher hopes for Mockingjay as a movie.

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    4. Ha! Just found this. :)

      http://gingerhaze.tumblr.com/post/67892123602/hunger-games-comics-part-2

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  22. Hmmm, wonder if maybe the review should be changed from "former rape victim" to "rape survivor"?

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  23. I don't think that Mockingjay sucked, and the reason that I like it isn't because I am, for some reason, avoiding the objective truth that Mockingjay sucked or being fooled or blinded by my love for the other books. I just like it. I thought it was smart and unconventional.

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  24. There's also a novella about two characters from the trilogy called Endurance. It continues the story of Thimble and Stone: http://www.amazon.com/Endurance-HeroesandHeartbreakers-com-Original-Ann-Aguirre-ebook/dp/B008N04QYA/ref=pd_sim_kstore_3

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  25. Shelley in So. IllinoisDecember 3, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    I trust your reviews on books so I immediately bought Enclave on my phone for $2.99! Unfortunately, Outpost cost a bit more, and then Horde cost quite a bit more. :( Oh well! I am really enjoying it, so thanks for the review! And the permission to just give up on Allegiant. I thought Mockingjay went totally off the rails and was a huge letdown after the first two books.

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  26. Have you ever read The Maze Runner? It's one of my favorites, and pieces of your summary reminded me of it. They're making a movie of it at the end of 2014, so if you're quick, you can be able to compare the two fairly!

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    1. I have not - but I'll check it out!

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  27. On my way to Amazon, just on your recommendation!

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  28. Wah, not available on Kindle :(

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    1. Are you talking about these three books? Because they're all available on Kindle. I added them to my wish list!

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    2. Yeah, I bought all three of them on Monday!

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  29. I just finished the Divergent series, and while I think it was better than Hunger Games (loved the first book, so angry with the rest of the story), I agree that it ended weakly. Thanks to one-click Kindle delivery, Enclave is now waiting for me come lunchtime!

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  30. If you like Ann Aguirre you should totally read her Sirantha Jax series. It's set in futuristic space and is totally 100% geeky sci-if awesomeness. The first book is called Grimspace. Some of the books are better than others but the overall series is good and the ending doesn't suck.

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  31. Have you read Cinder by Marissa Meyer yet? It's amazing!

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  32. Sounds interesting! I am so glad you agree with me on Mockingjay - I got finished with that book and promptly decided I didn't like the whole series, even though I liked the first two books. I'm not even interested in watching the rest of the movies anymore, that's how much I did not like Mockingjay.

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  33. Thank you for saying Mockingjay sucked. I was sooooo disappointed with it.

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  34. Thank you so much Jen!!!! I started Horde this afternoon after reading Enclave and Outpost this week (ummm...I read fast and make poor decisions about how late to stay up on work nights when I'm reading a good book!). I am LOVING this series!!! I cannot say how much I am seriously enjoying these books! :) :) Thank you again for telling us about them!!!

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    1. Just finished...you're right...FINALLY a series that finished as strong as it started! Thanks again Jen!!! <3

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  35. I haven't read anything by Ann Aguirre, but I've been wanting to in solidarity since reading some stuff about how very badly she was treated at a con. This sounds like a good start!

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  36. Sounds like a good read. I've got a question about another series you reviewed. I got and read Garth Nix's Sabriel and enjoyed it, so went on to the next book Lirael. I've tried several times but I just can't get into it. He throws every teenaged angst cliche there is into the mix and I'm just finding it really, really annoying. So does it get any better?

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  37. I'm now on Horde and thank you for introducing me to a series that I will follow through! I always get bored halfway through the third book (exceptions being lord of the rings. Hp, and hunger games so far.) I agree with Mockingjay, I felt Katniss regressed so far and while I understand why it bothered me. I was happy with who she ended up with because, honestly, by the end of it I kind of hated the other guy. He had too much anger, and she had too much anger, and I think being together would have destroyed them. Plus, she would never be able to trust him. I think being in the games gave her more value for Hunan life.
    What I'm loving about the Enclave series is how much character growth there is, particularly with Deuce and Tegan. It's been a long while since I've read a female character so well rounded and one that actually inspires me (since Eowyn, actually). So thank you!

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  38. I loved this series (just finished it) so thank you for the suggestion. (Semi-spoiler) Most of my feelings have already been captured, but I did want to point out how much Stalker reminded me of Rufio (from Hook) early on, and that wound up being a pretty apt character to compare him to as time went on as well. I'm never drawn to the bad boy character, and wasn't really here, but I appreciated how much depth this one was given.

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  39. I picked this trilogy up because of this review, Jen. Enclave was amazing and now I'm reading Outpost. Thank you so much for the recommendation - I haven't been this excited about a series in a very long time! I saw someone mention they were wary about trying a new series; I highly encourage you to try this one!

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  40. THANK YOU for the review! Like some others that commented, I picked them up at my library because of your review and have not stopped reading them since! I'm on Horde right now and dying to get back home to read it. As much as I love the influx of YA dystopian future trilogies, many have disappointed me with their shoddy world-building and plot holes. This was not one of them!

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