Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review: The Witnesses by Stephanie Black (Whitney Finalist 2013)

Title: The Witnesses
Author: Stephanie Black
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Digital Copy
This book would be rated: PG-13 for violence

Since I spent yesterday comparing everything I've read to Frozen, I'm going to keep going down that vein and compare The Witnesses to Tangled. Remember how Mother Gothel would do anything and everything to be able to stay young? Well, replace Gothel with Amanda Ryce, the ninety-four-year-old president of New America (and a few henchmen in political power), and replace Rapunzel with the entire populace of her country, and you basically have the story of The Witnesses. When this story opens, which is the sequel to The Believers, Daniel Lansbury, the son of one of Ryce's henchmen is hiding three religious believers, all of whom were supposed to be executed. The group has to outsmart the politicos in charge in order to stay alive, especially when the president begins to suspect that they may have the answers to her immortality.

In many dystopian novels, the story takes place far into the future, in a world that has been rocked by war, illness, and near-apocalyptic desolation. In contrast, The Witnesses takes place in a near future, when New America has split from the United States, and medical technology has progressed significantly beyond its current state, but the landscape and culture remain quite similar. Another interesting point-- the "believers" alluded to in the title of the first novel are Mormons in hiding, and the religious discussions that take place in the second half of the novel were interesting to me from a publishing point of view. This is a novel that would seem to have broader reach without all the Mormon stuff, but it also seems pretty central to what Black wants to do here. It seems that a lot of the stories this year include conversion narratives, which I'm not sure is a super-successful approach for authors who are preaching to the choir.

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