I received this book for free from Pinoy Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Tor Teen on February 10, 2015
Genres: YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Young Adult
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Once there was a time when men and women lived as equals, when girl babies were valued, and women could belong only to themselves. But that was ten generations ago. Now women are property, to be sold and owned and bred, while a strict census keeps their numbers manageable and under control. The best any girl can hope for is to end up as some man's forever wife, but most are simply sold and resold until they're all used up.
Only in the wilderness, away from the city, can true freedom be found. Aya has spent her whole life in the mountains, looking out for her family and hiding from the world, until the day the Trackers finally catch her.
Stolen from her home, and being groomed for auction, Aya is desperate to escape her fate and return to her family, but her only allies are a loyal wolf she's raised from a pup and a strange mute boy who may be her best hope for freedom . . . if she can truly trust him.
The Glass Arrow is a haunting, yet hopeful, new novel from Kristen Simmons, the author of the popular Article 5 trilogy.
When I read the Goodreads description for Kristen Simmons’ The Glass Arrow, it immediately hiked my expectations up a notch or three. Comparing any book to Margaret Atwood’s so-many-shades-of-awesome The Handmaid’s Tale is kind of like how I’d imagine promising Gordon Ramsay a fantastic meal would be: impressive as hell if you can back up your claims, but so many levels of humiliation with cuss words thrown in (because how dare you) if you can’t. If you were to ask me, this kind of comparison required that the book be a 4.5-star read at least—or else the highest it could possibly get would be a 2. Fortunately, I wasn’t halfway through it when I knew it was going to be a 5.
The Glass Arrow takes place in a world where women are kept as commodities to be sold and traded, instruments for breeding and little else. Fifteen-year-old Aya has protected her family since her mother’s death, but when she is captured and brought to the Garden, where women and girls are prepared for auctioning off to those who would use them as broodmares, she knows she has to find a way out and back home to her family. She forms a friendship of sorts with a wolf and one of the mute Driver boys who handle horses and trade goods within the city, but can she rely on their aid to escape?
I loved this book on so many levels. First of all, it was action, action, action right from the get-go. And it wasn’t just hack-and-slash action either. There was political intrigue and the way this world works just sucks you right in even as it fills you with feminist outrage (as I’m sure it’s meant to). The system, which prizes fertile virgins, is an elaborate one, and scarily believable, when you consider some of the descriptions I’ve read of real-life human trafficking.
What really sold me on it, though, were the characters. Aya is everything I could want in a heroine: kickass and practical in ways that make the traits both strengths and weaknesses. Solidly in the “strengths” column is her loyalty to her family and her absolute authenticity as a person: she has an unwavering sense of self, and she would rather die, rather suffer, than give up anything that might make her sacrifice who she is and what she believes in. Unlike many heroines, she also has a healthy dose of self-preservation. This is not to say that she isn’t willing to sacrifice herself for those she cares most about, but she won’t throw her life away on grand gestures or anything short of the hope of saving others’ lives, either.
Then there’s Kiran, the mute Driver boy, who belongs to a subculture of outsiders who trade livestock and goods for medicine and technology from the cities. He’s certainly book boyfriend material, despite being covered in grime and other unpleasantness throughout much of the book. He has unusually colored eyes (“river silt and copper,” Simmons writes); Aya names him Kiran for the stone they remind her of, and I imagine they must look like tiger’s eye stones (I don’t care if I’m wrong). Simmons keeps you guessing for a good long while as to Kiran’s willingness to help Aya, and that just adds to the intrigue.
Through the course of this book, Aya learns a lot not just about the world she’s been born to, but also about herself, and I really admired how Simmons managed to explain much of the ins and outs of this world without much info-dumping. The way she revealed the truths about Aya’s own history was also masterfully done, so that it left you going “Ah, I get it now” right along with the main character rather than “What? Where did that come from?”
When I knew I was on the last few chapters of this books, I felt torn when nothing indicated that this novel was part of a series. On one hand, Simmons has created such a rich, textured world that it begs more exploration. I want to know more about the Governess and the inner workings of the city. I want to know more about Driver culture. And I want to know what happens to Aya’s half-friend Daphne (or Strawberry, if you like). But on the other hand, I wanted Aya to have her happily ever after and let it stay an HEA. I’ll admit I’m a bit sick of the serial dystopian novels in which each book marks victory over a battle but not a war, and I’m glad I don’t have to wait for a sequel in which the heroine’s triumph is destroyed by something bigger and badder.
What I’m getting at, just in case the author should ever happen upon this review, is that I would dearly love companion novels set in the same world but exploring story lines of different characters. Pretty please?
Which is not to say that I would give anything less than five stars to this book, even if it WERE to remain the one and only novel set in this world!