Author: Aimee Carter
Genre: young adult, dystopia
Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion #1
Pages: 346 (ARC edition)
Published: November 26 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley/edelweiss
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.
THIS WAS SO GOOD YOU GUYS. SO GOOD I CAN'T EVEN THINK IN NON-CAPSLOCK RIGHT NOW. If, like me, you went into this expecting another run-of-the-mill young adult dystopia against Fighting the Man, Pawn is going to knock you off your socks and back a step. The setup is creative, the stakes are high, and it just rockets along. I cannot remember the last time a novel in this type of genre left me so excited and happy --- or one that I would rate a full five stars! -- so Pawn is a breath of fresh air in an overworked and tired genre.
The first half of the book literally speeds by. Things happen quickly and the plot progress at a nice pace despite the initial confusion of a new reader dropped into an alien setting. Despite the setup required to establish both the world and the characters of both Lila and Kitty, the first half of the novel reads very well and very quickly. It's an engrossing and intriguing concept and the author really does sell it to the reader. Once the eleven days of training are behind her, Kitty's story slows down but trades the speed for an increase in the intensity and suspense of the story. It's a well-struck bargain and though the second half lacks the speed, it packs several punches of its own.
The situation Kitty finds herself in with the Harts, more than any other that has come before it, reminds of Katniss and her situation in Catching Fire. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Kitty and Katniss are the same personally or in personality, but that they are forced into similar situations by powerful people. Like Katniss, Kitty is expected to play a role for public consumption; one meant to mollify an increasingly agitated populace on behalf of the controlling 1%. Like Katniss, this requires sacrificing her personal life for a public one. She has to act out an elaborate play to save those she loves, and as she does so she becomes embroiled in an undercover rebellion.
The similarities between other books are there, but Pawn takes place entirely a world of Carter's creation. The worldbuilding, the system of social stratification, the lack of love triangle, the mother of all dysfunctional families... all these are Carter's alone. The Harts, especially, are a piece of work. They mix politics and muuurder and rebellion and Sunday brunch with ruling a country. They plot and scheme and hate each other, but they are fascinating. They're a group of morally gray (at best!) individuals, but you cannot deny that they are all well-characterized and defined.
Aimee Carter is an author that loves to throw out genuine surprises throughout the story. Even when you think you know what is going on, the next chapter contains a major gamechanger. This doesn't happen just once, or twice, but often. If you think you've got everything figured out, jsut read a bit longer and then Carter will yank the rug out from under you again. I am far from complaining --- it's awesome and tricky and made Pawn really stand out. This is my first novel from Aimee Carter and I have to say I think she is underrated. If her Blackcoat series is any indication, those are some serious author skills.
The problem with all good things is that they eventually end. And when Pawn ends, with just enough resolution to keep readers from rioting, it's with plenty of open ended plotlines lingering for book two, Captive. There are many questions looming about the current situation as Carter left it --- who is Daxton?! -- but Pawn still manages to end well. It's a whirlwind ride and Pawn is an exciting read; one that is nigh unputdownable.