Monday, August 29, 2011

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Monday, August 29, 2011

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.(Publisher's summary from Goodreads)

Although I came to Enclave by Ann Aguirre a bit late, I have to say that better late than never. To be sure, Enclave is a riveting example of just how gripping apocalyptic fiction can be if done right. From the devastated world building, which greatly affects the setting and atmosphere of the book to the sensational characterization that breathes life into the story, Enclave compels the reader to deal with life that is fraught with dangers, and survival trumps love and compassion.

Certainly in any post-apocalyptic tale, the world built must set the scene for what is to come and Aguirre does just that. Like the Enclave living in dark tunnels, Aguirre keeps her readers in dark about what has occurred to force this underground society. Instead, we learn about the harsh realities of life, where twenty-five is as old as it gets, only breeders are allowed to propagate, and children or brats are named only if they survive long enough to become useful members of the Enclave. As we adjust to this new reality we also begin to see that a lack of compassion has worn away much of the essences of humanity, and like Deuce and Fade we begin to question the status quo.

Deuce is an exceptional character and it is through her first person narrative that the story unfolds.  Born and raised in the Enclave the tunnels are her only reality. While she has learned that being a hunter required strength and courage, and for the most part has accepted the wisdom of the elders, we are also given glimpses into her ability to question that wisdom. I loved Deuces ability to kick-ass, but was seriously drawn to her vulnerabilities, which made her stand out in such an unforgiving world of the Enclave and Topside.

Fade, Deuce’s hunting partner, and an outcast despite his expert hunting ability was the ideal counterpoint to Deuce and the other members of the Enclave. Allowed to become a member of the Enclave when he is found in the tunnels, his experiences Topside keeps him from embracing the blind rules set forth by the elders and his fierce sense of right and wrong greatly influences Deuce’s actions. As Deuce learns more about Fade, she begins to trust not only his incredible instincts, but his distrust of the Enclave, and when Deuce stands up for one of her friends and is banished from the Enclave Fade does not hesitate to join her.

Deuce and Fade are spectacular together. As they fight to survive, I found myself on edge rejoicing at their successes and cringing at their desperate plight. I also greatly enjoyed Deuce's Topside education, learning about the sun and stars, and libraries. While the Deuce and Fade find comfort with each other, I was happy that Aguirre held back from allowing their feelings for each other to become overly romantic, which would have negated the harsh realities of the world the perils they face daily. What few  tender moments they did share ended up being very powerful.

Enclave is a fantastic story and while the ending was satisfying, it left me wanting more. I will be looking forward the book two and finding out whether Deuce and Fade's feeling for each other will grow, and whether the world around them will change for the better. I am also intrigued to find out whether some of the secondary character will end up will greater roles. If you are a an of post-apocalyptic fiction then don't miss this one.

Design by Use Your Imagination Designs All images from the Keeper Of Time kit by Studio Gypsy