In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.
The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
Oh wow, this book. I don’t really know what I expected with this one other than that I’d probably like it because one of my friends couldn’t stop raving about it. I really did love this one, so that much was on point, but I don’t know what I thought it would be about going in. What a pleasant surprise!
This was a crazy look at a future where magic exists in a post apocalyptic society built on the remnants of what used to be the United States. I thought the world building here was fantastic. I love the idea of a magical virus that leaves its few survivors with abilities. Of course since this is a post apocalyptic society I found that fascinating as well because this is my jam. Now, it’s been a while since the ‘catastrophe’ so while life is very different, and definitely broken from what was a whole United States, it’s very much a ‘life goes on’ situation. The other thing I loved about the world-building is all of the politics and how relevant it is to things going on in the world today. They’re dealing with migrants coming into this country, Carolinia, as their last hope for survival because to stay in their own country it would be a death sentence. And yet what they find in Carolinia isn’t welcoming at all, of course, they’re made to live in slums, treated less than humane, and basically made out to be the enemy of the Carolinians, the cause of all their ills. If only someone would get rid of these migrants that are the cause of all the Carolinian’s problems! Well, you can see the parallels, I’m sure. Aside from this there are some other subject matters that are pretty heavy–this isn’t a light book at all, but I wouldn’t say that it’s bleak and nihilistic either.
There are a lot of other details I loved too. They treat magic not only as a magic–the ‘presenting’ ability (the one that shows up when they first wake from the fever)–but also as a science. With knowledge of physics you can learn things like telekineses. With knowledge of biology and anatomy you can learn healing abilities. And so on. I really love the mix of science, technology, and magic in this story and how it all works together. I also love how the magics are akin to ‘superpowers’ vs typical magic, but people are still able to grow their magical abilities through learning and training. Super powers plus a little bit of magic school–it’s really the best of both worlds!
This book exams heroes and villains and the concepts of right and wrong. Is it okay to do wrong things in order to achieve a greater future in the long run? When you start compromising your own morality does it make you a bad person or do you sometimes have to make compromises to get things accomplished? It also makes you think about how ‘villains’ don’t see themselves as villains, just people trying to get things done. Noam, our main character, is suddenly thrust into a new life when tragedy wipes out most of his local community. He’s a teenager dealing with grief, trying to figure out exactly what he wants in life, while also not knowing which people he can place his trust in. The mystery of who to trust and what exactly is going on is such a tricky plot to juggle and it’s done well here. I won’t say that there aren’t some things that I guessed before they were revealed (and in those cases I think the author put the clues out there for the reader to put together while our main character remained ignorant), but there were also plenty of things that I didn’t see coming.
If I have one tiny criticism it’s maybe that the pacing could have been a little better at times. But I don’t think it was a big hindrance for me because all of the slower parts allowed for us to get to know the characters…or maybe let us think we know the characters–can you ever truly know anyone? I’m being coy for reasons!
Overall, I really loved this book–it’s different from most other things I’ve read. I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel! 4.5/5 stars.