New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
One sentence sum-up: a story of survival in a world where each day is a struggle to live another day.
My reaction: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Enclave. The main character Deuce is an appealing heroine to root for – one who is physically and mentally tough-as-nails, and one to match Katniss of The Hunger Games for determination. I loved that Deuce revels so much in the joy she receives from the actual physical experience of fighting. She is not without flaws, though. Seeing her grow emotionally, learning to welcome vulnerability and view her feelings as a strength rather than a weakness, was fabulous. Her companion Fade is a little more difficult to get to know, but that is part of his personality as well; he's not one to open up to just anybody, instead holding himself at a distance. I definitely enjoyed the progression of the relationship between them, as they start out wary of each other, and learn to trust one another as hunting partners before anything romantic happens.
The combination of the dystopian society of the underground enclave and the post-apocalyptic setting of the world above in Topside worked really well, and I was glad that we get a chance to see both. I do have quite a few lingering questions about both how the enclave functions and what happened to bring about the post-apocalyptic state of Topside, but this is only the first of a series so I'm betting I'll get some of those questions answered in the next novels.
While the stakes are certainly raised high at the climax, I did find that the resolution to it was a little too convenient for my taste. Spoilery bit, highlight to read: yes, Deuce does keep the fire going (although I'm not sure a dream/hallucination of Silk was really necessary for that), but Longshot stopping by and leading them to safety struck me as taking away some of the companions' independence in forging their own path, and making it rather easy for them all of a sudden.
Best aspect: Aguirre manages quite successfully to write a book that is the first in a series and yet maintains an internal story arc. So often books that start off a series, especially when world-building is key (as it is in dystopian books), spend most of the time setting things up for the next few books. This is not the case with Enclave – there is enough resolution to leave the reader feeling satisfied, but still plenty more questions to be explored in sequels. Plus, Aguirre doesn't compromise the speed of the plot in order to give us world-building. There is plenty of action happening here!
I also appreciated the importance that relics from the past play in Enclave, especially given that the past is our present. Books and other written materials are treasured in Deuce's community, so much so that the role of Wordkeeper comes with a lot of power. Indeed, "hoarding" ancient items is punishable by exile. Weaving the tale of The Day Boy and the Night Girl by George Macdonald (which I wasn't actually familiar with before) throughout was a particularly nice literary touch.
And one specific point: I thought Deuce's reaction to Topside after she'd been living underground her whole life was portrayed very accurately. Her fear and anxiety over the openness of the world and the vastness of the sky was extremely believable, especially since Deuce prefers to conquer fears with fighting, and this was one she could not simply punch or club or slash out of existence.
If I could change something... I wanted to see more of the other enclave, Nassau. We don't really get much description of it when Deuce and Fade peek in, and I thought they should have done a bit more reconnaissance. Perhaps there's a reason for this, and we'll find out more about what was happening there in the sequel, though?
Also, while I got a good feel for most of the characters, I couldn't really picture Tegan that well. Maybe it's because she didn't have a strong personality like Deuce, and so in comparison she felt a little diminished, but she just didn't quite come alive for me. Plus, there was one plot point involving her that stretched my credulity. Spoiler, highlight to read: if the Wolves don't trust Tegan, then why do they assign only her to guard Deuce? I didn't buy that they would be so thoughtless as to leave those two completely unattended.
Hopes for the sequel? More of the Fade-Deuce romance! They were constantly on the run in this one so I'll admit romantic interludes were not altogether that practical. But the ones we do see are adorable and I would welcome more in the next book.
In ten words or less: an engrossing read that will keep you flipping the pages.
Final verdict: 4.5 shooting stars.
Author's website: www.annaguirre.com
Disclaimer: I received an Enclave ARC from the publisher for review for A Cornucopia of Dystopia.