Friday, February 14, 2014

Firstborn. Great dystopian!


The world-building in Firstborn is something to sigh over.
This is definitely a dystopian, except it feels more like it's set in the past {tribes, foot soldiers, villages} than in the future, which makes the story unique right from the start. 
The writing is exactly right for the tone of the story too, a kind of formal, measured prose with verse mixed in when a vision is given.

As a daughter born into a conquered tribe where females are despised, Tiadone would have been murdered at birth if her father hadn't declared her male. 
When he made that choice, he saved and doomed his daughter all at once. She must hide from her own identity now, spurning anything womanly in her mind or her body. Things would have been very different if the R'tan people were not under foreign domination, but they are. As per Madronian orders, Tiadone wears a dried desert cat's heart amulet to scare away any hints of femininity, and she strives to be the male she must to survive. 

We meet Tiadone just before three turning points in her life. The first is when she witnesses the High Priest Sleene take a newborn girl away to die on the screes. She had known intellectually that death would have been her fate, but know she understands the cruelty at a deeper lever. 

The second is that her Rapion has hatched! This was another really neat part of the story, instead of depending on advanced technology, the R'tan tribe has a special connection to the Rapion bird. In exchange for a child's placenta, the birds gift the child with one of their eggs. Tiadone has worn the egg at her belt for years, dreaming of the day when her bird would hatch and bond with her. Her doubts about her malehood haunt her even here, when Tiadone fears that the Rapion won't twine with her.

And the third is her initiation, when Tiadone will become a Patroller. Partnered with her best friend Ratho, these initiates and their Rapions will raise the alarm of any dangers along the perimeter. 
That's another way this world shines... the environment. 
The perimeter is in the vast, dry, colorful mesas. There are sandstorms and sidewinders and desert cats like the one that provided her amulet's heart. Tiadone and Ratho's training and patrolling makes for can't-put-it-down reading, especially as Tia's inner world unfolds to us. She finds herself longing for the love of her partner and questioning how she can live as a R'tan under the religion and dominion of the Madronians. She misses her father desperately and she can't imagine being separated from her Rapion. 

Something I truly loved was that when Tiadone felt the stirrings of womanhood within her, they weren't weakness and foolishness and some nonsensical seduction. Realizing that she was a woman at heart didn't mean that she was simpering and smarmy. It meant that she was strong in the way she was made to be. It was real, and girls today can relate to her journey. 

And I want another book! The Hunger Games would have been great with one book, but it became epic with three. Firstborn would make a wonderful series... I want to know more about the R'tan people, and the books they aren't allowed to access, and Ratho, and Tiadone.

Thank you Booksneeze for my review copy!

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