Kitty has failed the mandatory test that will determine her rank for the rest of her life – she’s been branded a III. With no prospects and no hope she accepts the offer to take up a VII – a rank only given to members of the ruling family of America. She is Masked and must convincingly play the role of the deceased Prime Minister’s niece, and help stifle a brewing rebellion. But not everything is as it appears, and as Kitty is pulled further into the world of the ruling family she uncovers conspiracy after conspiracy, and must muster all her courage to become more than just a pawn.
I found Carter’s Goddess Test series a trial on my patience, but she seems to have learned a lot not just from her previous series but from other dystopians that have come before. I haven’t read it, but I hear The Selection by Kiera Cass talks a lot about rebels but never shows them presenting a threat, but books like The Hunger Games and Divergent show you the struggle of the rebels in their dystopian society.
Carter didn’t just give us a society I can kind of half-see working one day (just not so soon) in that it’s a merit-based society still blinded by its own privilege, but she also demonstrated why people are unhappy with it and what leads to the rebellion in the first place. I find it difficult to accept that the ruling family would inherit the position of Prime Minister – that’s not to say it doesn’t happen in other countries, because I know it does, but it’s asking me to suspend my disbelief quite a lot to suggest it might happen to the United States of America in such a short period of time. As such, I mostly saw the idea of the VIIs being American royalty, and read most of the book with a British accent in my head (the Prime Minister thing didn’t help, either). If you can accept this dystopian for what it is (and I think Kitty as narrator does help a lot in accepting the society and how it came to be) then I think the book could be very enjoyable.
Kitty seemed like your basic pro-active dystopian heroine. I liked her sense of duty and her bravery, but she was also tempered by a healthy dose of fear that helped show us just how human she was. She was often filled with bravado, honestly believing she could easily kill someone with her bare hands, but when the time came to do the deeds she swore she’d do in previous pages, she often failed. I did find this a little disappointing. I understand that not everyone can be a Katniss, but I did find that her bravado seemed a little out of place. Apart from that I found her quiet desperation entertaining and enjoyed spending time with her.
It was the relationships between the characters I found fascinating. No one was willing to commit to Kitty being Lila 24/7, and often called her by her birth name. I found the wealth of conflicting goals and myriad of secrets fascinating as each was uncovered. I found my loyalties shifting with Kitty’s and I think Carter managed this extremely well. It would have been difficult writing such a book with so many secrets and everyone knows a little of something, and keeping track of who knows what and how each secret motivates each particular character. I found that aspect particularly well crafted.
A better than average start to a dystopian series with a more believable than most back story as to how it came to be. Kitty was slightly better than your average heroine in that she was pro-active, but her bravado annoyed me when she failed to carry through her threats. I was a little disappointed by the ending and felt the stakes could have been raised. I fear the second book, Captive, will be more of the same in Pawn, but I will give the author the benefit of the doubt as she has grown a lot since her debut series The Goddess Test.