Note: There are no spoilers for Archetype until you get to the Prototype section. Skip to the Evaluation to avoid all spoilers.
This is a set of two books (not a trilogy!) that are best read in tandem. These are not YA books; “New Adult” might be the more accurate description.
Archetype beings with Emma Burke waking up in a hospital with no idea who she is or what happened in the accident that took away her memories. Her handsome and rich husband, Declan, works patiently with her to help her remember, and doesn’t push her to resume her role as his wife. But gradually, being a wife to Declan is what Emma wants for herself.
However, something is strange about Emma’s recovery: she keeps hearing a voice inside of her head, a voice Emma refers to as She or Her, who guides Emma and provides her with memories that her husband and doctor do not. They are disturbing memories, and what they reveal is at odds with everything Emma has been told to believe. Moreover, many of these memories involve a man who is not Declan, but whom Emma comes to understand she loves fiercely. She becomes determined to find out the truth about her life.
Prototype Section. No spoilers for Prototype but SPOILERS AHEAD for Achetype. Skip to the Evaluation Section to avoid spoilers for Archetype:
Prototype begins over a year after Archetype. Emma is now on the run, looking for her parents, or at least, the parents of the woman from whom she was cloned. She now understands that she was made from the cells of Emma Wade, a former officer in the Resistance, wife of Noah Tucker, and mother of Adrienne. The original Emma was fatally injured, but kept alive until Adrienne was born, and now only cloned Emma remains. She no longer has the thoughts of the original Emma to guide her and provide memories, and she is trying to make a new life for herself for who she is. She left Noah because she knew she was not really the woman he loved.
Declan locates Emma and tries to recapture her, so she takes a step she was trying to avoid, and returns to the safety of the Resistance headquarters and to Noah. But Noah is now with Sonya, the doctor who kept Emma live until the baby was born, and who has stepped in to be a partner to Noah and mother to Adrienne. Although Emma is devastated, she decides not to leave Adrienne again, and re-enlists with the Resistance.
She continues to look for her parents though, and Declan continues to look for Emma. Emma and Noah grow close, and Sonya tells Noah she will leave, so everything seems like it might work out for the best. But then a betrayal in the Resistance threatens everyone, and it turns out the clones aren’t the only ones who aren’t really who they appear to be.
Discussion: The storyline in these books falters in some of the scaffolding, including an awkward attempt to tie the science of cloning to a problem with female fertility. The author also adds a motif similar to Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale about captive girls living in guarded compounds and destined for purchase by men seeking fertile mates. These subplots are not fully developed and somewhat muddled.
What I did like about the story is the relationship between the original Emma and her clone. To me, this is the true romance of the book, and what makes them worth reading. As the clone Emma says about her original:
“One thing She got right that I never learned is that family is what you make it. It has nothing to do with blood and everything to do with the connections we nurture throughout our lives.”
The original Emma is in fact “related” to her clone, but theirs is a relationship that is unique and exceptional, and one of the most interesting part of these books. The other friendships were well-drawn as well.
I also liked the fact that the usual romance triangle is a bit inverted. It is not a matter of two males vying for a female, but a female who is conflicted over two males in a complex manner. I think that this is an area the author could have expanded upon even more. The clone Emma had to negotiate not only her own feelings, but also the feelings from her original donor. Neither male was simply good or bad, and both Emmas had a complicated history with each of them. Was the resolution justified? Worth considering.
Worst aspect? The way the author gives the clone Emma a distinctive voice by having her speak in a stilted manner, never using contractions. There is absolutely no justification for this. First of all, we know when the original Emma speaks (as opposed to the cloned Emma) because italics are always used. Second, since the clone Emma is a clone, there is no reason her language would be different. And after a year and a half living in the world, even had the clone Emma started out speaking awkwardly, she would not continue to do that after all that time.
Evaluation: I found both good and bad points about these two books which, as mentioned above, should be read together. Overall though, I think the author was able to add enough distinctive elements to her dystopia to make it an interesting and at times even gripping read.
Published by Dutton, a member of the Penguin Group, 2013 and 2014