Monday, December 17, 2012


(review based on an advance reading copy)

What a delightfully shiver-inducing opening! RENEGADE follows Evelyn's first person account of her life in a reclusive underwater community designed for those fleeing the war and horror on land...among the dreaded, evil "surface-dwellers." The first chapter opens with Evelyn's saccharine inner monologue, including repetitions of: My life is pretty much perfect. She will be coupled soon with a boy she likes and as daughter to Mother, who leads all of Elysium, she will doubtless play an important role in this society. Then Mother kills someone Evelyn loves right in front of her as punishment for a minor offense. We're still in Chapter One, by the way. Chapter Two, which takes place the next day, causes some serious déjà vu. Not only does Evelyn not remember any of the violence and betrayal from yesterday, but her thought pattern is near identical to the previous day's as she follows a set routine and continues her determined mental chant: My life is pretty much perfect. As I said, delightfully shiver-inducing as it sinks in that Evelyn will not be a reliable narrator and her paradise is a dangerous facade.

Returning to Chapter One, though, Souders seriously impressed me. Killing a character early on can be problematic, because readers often won't feel the death as much if they haven't had a chance to befriend the characters and envision them as real people. In only a few pages, I cared about the character who dies, and a writer's kind of magic - the right words - caused me to feel that horrific scene with all of Evelyn's pain, confusion, and despair, which makes it extra creepy when I still remember what happened vividly and Evelyn's clueless about both the events and her own emotions.

From there, the story morphs into an action book as Evelyn realizes what's really going on...and fights hard to keep that realization. The fact that she can't really trust anyone - even herself - ratchets up the suspense and danger. She only has a handful of allies and none of them convinced me of 100% loyalty. Then there's the issue of Evelyn's mind turning against her so that she betrays herself.

The romance is rather rushed. I usually groan and grumble when characters toss around the word "love" after knowing each other 1-3 days. However, it works in RENEGADE. Of course, it's always open to reader interpretation whether you believe the characters are really in love or just think so, but regardless it's understandable for two people to grow so dependent in so little time when they're literally each others' only hope for survival.

The ending pulls off another eerie, creepy affect similar to the opening. Without spoilers, Souders writes a few pages so that you don't know whether Evelyn has accomplished her goal or if everything has been horribly shattered. I've read numerous reviews of this book that use the phrase "on the edge of my seat!" I hesitate using that phrase, not only because it's cliché, but more because it's hyperbole and I prefer a more literal, if less exciting, description of what a book made me feel. However, RENEGADE really did make me sit up straighter and hunch over the book as though the story might draw me into its depths. What a read!

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