In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.
As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.
Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.
As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.
This book started out with a ton of action - within the first few pages there is blood and branding! I was cringing. And for the most part that pace keeps up throughout the rest of the book. From fighting the freaks, to fighting other dangers Fade and Deuce battle and battle. I started to feel physically tired for them! I mean within a few days the whole world Deuce has ever known what turned completely upside down, and she is on the run.
Deuce was raised to follow the rules of the enclave (her underground tribe) - to never question them. She fully believes that the rules are there to help them survivor and live even if it's a meager existence. She proudly becomes a Huntress, so she can protect those rules and the people in her enclave. And I guess if I grew up where she did I would feel the same. They know nothing else - except Fade. Fade didn't grow up in the Enclave, but he now lives there as a Hunter. Deuce's unease around Fade is completely understandable knowing what she believes and how he is an "outsider". As the reader I found it interesting to see how and why this feeling begins to change. I get very frustrated when a character seems to make these huge leaps and changes in beliefs based on nothing. Enclave doesn't do that. You can see and understand Deuce's rationale. It seems logical and grounded.
The pace of the plot maintains pretty good throughout the story - even as more characters come in. What helps is the ever constant presencee of the Freaks. Freaks are a zombie-like creatures, but they don't infect others. There is never the fear of being bit like in zombie books. The Freaks keep the tension high because you never know if they are going to show up, how many there will be and whether they will be smarter Freaks. At times when Fade and Deuce should feel safe they quickly learn they aren't. Very seldom could they completely rest - and as the reader I felt like I couldn't either. And when the Freaks arrive so does the fear, blood and action. As other fears come and go throughout the book, the fear of the Freaks remains right up until the end.
A couple of complaints about the book - I know that in most dystopic stories how far into the feature the story is set is kept pretty vague, and they usually doesn't bother me. But in this book the number of years into the future confused me. Sometimes it felt like generations, but other times it seemed like it hadn't been that long. At points this confused me, and I found myself trying to figure that out instead of following the story. Not a huge problem but not one I encounter much when reading dystopia.
The other was the ending. It just kind of ended with tons of stuff hanging out there. Now I know there is going to be another, but it still ended pretty abruptly to me. I have a ton of questions that I felt could've been answered and still left enough uncertainty open for the next book. It a way this book felt like just a set up for the rest of the series.
Guy Rating: Four Thumbs up! Yes there is a bit of romance, but I honestly think a guy could "ignore" that in favor of the blood, fighting gore and action :)
Final thought: Lots of action and freaky Freaks
Best stick-with-you image: The smell of the Freaks
Best for readers who: Can handle tension and blood
Best for ages: 13+