In a distant future… A world divided... A walled city in a devastated wasteland… a struggle for power becomes a struggle to survive… with friends like these, who needs enemies?
How would you survive beyond the comfortable walls of your world?
For Starla, a struggle for power becomes a struggle for survival when she finds herself on the wrong side of the wall. Fleeing her abductors and lost in the wasteland, she faces starvation, warring factions, bloodthirsty creatures, and the endless burning sun.
And then there’s Ari… who is she really? And can she really trust this girl from the wasteland to lead her back to the city gates?
One thing’s for sure, Starla’s once privileged life will never be the same.
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There are two primary characters in the story. Starla is the mayor's daughter who lives in a walled city where she has everything she needs but feels trapped in the intrigues and power struggles. Ari is the girl with no family or friends who struggles to survive in the barren wasteland outside of the city. I found the characters fairly well-developed and distinct. P.J. Sky did a great job giving them both unique voices and showing the differences between their views and experiences.
The side characters were there rather to move the plot along, so the reader doesn't get to know them beyond some of their motivations related to the protagonists. I think it worked well for the story, though I wanted to understand the antagonist better. That might be left for the next book.
I believe that a lot was left out, probably to be discovered in the next book, but the world felt solid and believable, and I loved how some of the scenes were set. I also found it curious that the events seem to be happening in the future Australia, judging by the animals. What we know about the world is that it had been devastated by the humans of the past, though we don't know what exactly happened.
We also know about the sharp class divide: the people who live in the city in comfort and safety, with enough food and removed from the dangers and hard work of obtaining the materials used by their city, like ore or salt. They believe the outside is toxic and the people living there are dangerous and contagious. They don't have any contact with those people and don't venture outside unless they are banished from their city forever.
The people of the outside live a harsh life of hard menial labor, starvation and homelessness. There are criminals and wild animals they have to be wary of, and there is no one to protect them from numerous dangers, including being forced into the ore mines, from which no one has returned. Ari is aware that they work for the city getting next to nothing for it, but it's not clear whether anyone else sees it.
The plot is straightforward and relatively simple, the pace is quite fast and the story is engaging. The two girls try to get to the city with various obstacles on their way.
I enjoyed the book, even though I feel that it wasn't exactly my kind of story. Not because of any objective issues, there is nothing bad I can say about it and nothing I disliked, it was fun to read and I felt engaged and interested. I also enjoyed the writing. I might read the second book in the series in the future because I'm curious what will happen next, but I don't feel the urge to know.
It was an easy read even though it raised some serious issues, like class stratification, political intrigues, manipulation, exploitation and inequality. It also showed the devastating consequences of the past generations' actions, which is definitely a food for thought.
I loved the vivid picture of the sharp contrast between the life in the city and outside its walls that P.J. Sky painted.
You might enjoy the book if you like YA dystopian / post-apocalyptic adventures with young girls as protagonists.
You can get the book on Amazon.
P. J. Sky is a writer of short stories and novels, mostly in the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genre, for YA and adult readers. Born and raised in the UK, P. J. Sky wrote from a young age. Their first novel, A Girl Called Ari, was released in 2020 and won the Drunken Druid Book of the Year 2020. The sequel, Ari Goes To War, was released in April 2021.
In addition, in 2020, P. J. Sky also won the Mink: City of Dreams flash-fiction grand prize with their story, Strawberry Ice-Dream.
You can find P.J. Sky on Twitter and Goodreads or check out their website.