This beginning of a new series has many elements in common with the “Divergent” series, but in a very different universe. And in fact, Roth spends much of the book on world-building rather than on character-building. In this world, there is a “current” circling the planetary system, and everyone comes into a “gift” from the current when they reach puberty.
Two warring nations on one particular planet are the focus of the story: Shotet and Thuvhe. You will be shocked, shocked to learn there are two attractive 16-year-olds, one from each nation – a boy, Akos, and a girl, Cyra, that are destined to get together.
Cyra Noavek has an unusual “currentgift” – more like a curse, at least at first – she has chronic pain, which she can transfer to other people by touching them. It is so intense that prolonged contact with Cyra can kill the other person. Her evil brother Ryzek, now the leader of the Shotet nation, uses Cyra as his “scourge” to punish his enemies.
Cyra’s people, the Shotet, manage to kidnap two Thuvhens, Akos and Eijeh Kereseth, from across the border and bring them to Shotet. Ryzek wanted Eijeh because Eijeh’s gift is to prophesize. Akos is useful since his gift is to disrupt the current of the gifts of others. By touching Cyra, he can control her pain enough for Ryzek to have her to appear in public with him and do his bidding (which usually involves torture).
Akos is desperate to get Eijeh out of Shotet, because the gift Ryzek has is destroying Eijeh. But Ryzek has eyes everywhere, and a gang of thugs to support him. As Cyra and Akos grow closer, they both try to give each other strength and courage to stand up to injustice.
Evaluation: This book has a predictable attraction between two teens from two enemy groups; very evil people trying to take over the government; a resistance group; lots of training in fighting and weaponry; family loyalty questions; heartbreaking loss; a great deal of angst; and some personal growth, even though it’s only book one.
But I was not impressed with the derivative plot, the superficial characterizations – most of which lacked nuance, or the flimsy motivation for Cyra doing Ryzek’s evil bidding.
While I have seen a number of reviews for this book that condemn a perceived dichotomy between evil dark people and good light people, I didn’t think the comparative characteristics of each group was that straightforward. In my view, each had a mix of good and bad people. But adding color to one side or the other didn’t seem to serve any purpose in any event.
While I didn’t hate this book, I can’t see myself seeking out the next installment.
Published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2017