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.
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.
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.
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. ;)
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