Author: Audrey Grey
Publisher: Blaze Publishing
Publishing Date: Noveber 22, 2016
“The asteroid that will destroy the earth is named Pandora.” Maia Graystone has always known her world would end. She’s known “the exact day, the exact hour, the exact minute, but no one explained to her why.” In the world that Maia lives we find her battling every demon imaginable. Hunger, thirst, poverty, and insanity have ravaged her lands. The world’s demise, which the government has so “lovingly” called Deliverance Day, is to be brought on by an asteroid they’ve called Pandora. Deliverance Day was intended to be some kind of twisted version of Salvation. Society has been classed by Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Bronzes, unless they were able to purchase sleeping chambers, won’t survive the hit, silvers are buried underground in the chambers that will maintain their lives in a stasis, and Golds will party it up in space on Hyperion, while Silver’s watch through the eyes of the Chosen.
Maia, our protagonist, was once a member of the elite Chosen, designed to be a key factor in D-Day, by allowing people to piggyback onto her mind, seeing and living out all of her actions, thoughts, and feelings from the safety of their stasis chambers underground, while all the Golds would continue life out on Hyperion, far from the asteroid that would render earth uninhabitable for years to come. Maia was a Chosen because she was designed to be genetically flawless from birth, expected to carry on the human race not only in her mind, but by bearing children later on. Unfortunately, however, when Delphine, a fellow Chosen, actually assaults her, and Maia’s mother consults the Emperor, Maia is compared to a gangrenous toe and is banished and cut off from court. There starts Maia’s fall from grace, and the absence of her mother. Salvation would never come for her. The thing is, though, as the years have gone on, “they don’t mention salvation anymore. No one does.”
In our lives we all have things that we hold onto, things that allow us to be strong against all odds, and for Maia, that one thing is her Brother, Max. Maia has persevered through 7 years in a six-by-six foot hole in the earth, hiding from the creatures in the Pit, a Pit she was cast into when she was caught trying to steal food to feed her and her brother.
In her mind, she views herself as weak, and a failure, because when she was arrested, she abandoned her brother who was waiting on her return, and once in the pit she didn’t fight, she hid to survive. I think it was wisdom to stay hidden, but Maia hates herself for it daily. She’s learned how to live afraid, but trust me, for someone who is constantly afraid, the more we get to know her, the more we realize that she’s actually quite ballsy.
I think one of my favorite things about her is how easily I relate to her ability to stick her foot into her mouth. At one point she’s been captured by Ripper, who has been hunting her down to kill her since she first entered the Pit. Ripper asks Maia if she thinks she’s better than her, to which Maia says yes. Obviously it’s a mistake to piss of the person who’s got your life in their hands, and therefore when Maia is being choked by the rope that’s binding her, she says “Given my current way with words, this might actually keep me alive.,” and I literally laughed out loud.
Thanks to the Pit that Maia called home for 7 years, she’s learned to put every person she meets into a category; Predator or Prey. If imagining life in a 6-by-6 foot hole isn’t heart-wrenching enough, imagine being dropped into the Pit when you were just nine years old, after watching your father being brutally murdered, and labeled a traitor. When she talks about the Pit, she says, “my young brain couldn’t yet understand that there are some places where you are never safe.” Even now, as our government-tearing-down, wounded, and never trusting rebel continues on her mission, she’s only 16 years old.
When Maia’s father died, he was declared a traitor, and his head was mounted on a pike over the wall to prove a point to all of society what would happen to a traitor. Before he died, however, he hid something inside his children, a key, and a map, to lead them to the weapon that would help them save the world. During this time, this was all being helped along by Maia’s mother, who had abandoned her family two years prior, when Maia was only 7 years old. Much like Maia, I’m inclined to agree “I want to say it’s my mother, not Emperor Laevus, who should be punished.” The question that haunts me is, did her mother deliver her father into the hands of an Emperor who has an insatiable hunger for blood?
The plot rolls on and we meet new characters: Nicolai, the head of the plot to kill the Emperor, Riser, someone she knew from the Pit, but now expected to be her partner, Flame, the tech savvy, devoted-to-the-cause Fienien rebel, and Brogue, the twitchy mercenary who was brought along to protect Maia and Riser inside the Shadow Trials, and Prince Caspian, the Emporer’s son, the man Maia was genetically made to pair with. The rest of the novel we have a fight to save the world, and an emotional love triangle that had my heart coughing up blood by the end. Why must triangles be so tough? Can’t she just be with both of them?! Of course not, but there’s no salve for the torment Grey put me through! She did an incredible job keeping me as equally emotionally confused as our pit surviving friend with a name change, Maia Graystone to Lady Everly March. Lady Everly March being the person Maia was reconstructed to be since she could not infiltrate the Shadow Trials as herself.
Throughout this entire novel, one of my biggest struggles was that the symbolic representation of the enemy was the Phoenix, and the symbol you can’t help but root for is the Scorpion killing the Phoenix. It isn’t hard to tell why this bothers me, identifying with, and being known as Phoenix made this portion of the plot quite hard to swallow. I had to separate myself from it and look at the mere fact that, as with anything, not every individual part of a species can be good. So while 99% of Phoenixes are great, this 1% is just not… however heartbreaking that is.
One of the things, however, that I admired most about our author, Audrey Grey, was her ability to span about a weeks time into a 302 page novel. Maia reveals to us once she is out of the Pit that D-Day (or Deliverance Day) is two weeks and five days away… and *spoiler alert* we don’t even see D-Day by the end of the book, hence book 2, Shadow Rise. Can you imagine being 16 years old, have spent 7 years of your life hiding to survive in a cannibalism infested Pit, only to be saved to find that the safety of the world weighs on your shoulders and you have TWO AND A HALF WEEKS to save it?!
Another high praise to Audrey Grey is for her use of rhymes and poetry throughout her book. It really created a realistic view of what has happened to this society over the years. She even has a tune “Dandy Apples, Dandy Apples, smell like roses in the fall. When their swingin’ and they’re screamin’, Ain’t they the dandiest sight of all?” Morbid, of course, but a really wonderful graphic depiction of the kind of societal tearing that’s taken place. She’s constantly injecting these poems into the plot and they flow so beautifully with the story. She also added moments that make a bibliophile’s heart ache. The government burned all books, and they could only be bought on the black market. Unsanctioned text would lead to the capital punishment of death, which we see later on in the novel. The few REAL books that are left are so mangled that they can’t be read, save for the book that Maia recieved from her mother just she left for good. As awful as Maia’s mother is, Maia still yearns to prove herself, because she wanted to say “I can be good,” clearly lacking in any kind of approval from her mother.
The rest of our journey through this novel is just smaller individual steps towards tearing down the government, facing her mother, deciding who she loves, Riser or Caspian, and saving humanity. Thus, Grey has created a novel that I could not put down (for a second time) and rendering my need for sleep and food a useless tool until the release of Shadow Rise! I most definitely would recommend you read her novels, and would give the book a rating of 5 stars, and PG-12, primarily for the heavy amount of death and destruction, and that it confronts all the issues one would expect when overthrowing a government that may leave a child under 12 a bit emotionally shocked.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review and I’d love to hear your thoughts about this novel once you have read it, too! You can find it on amazon or at Blaze Publishing: