Serve the community. Obey the laws. Exist on anxiety pills. This is all Monet, a ward of her city, can hope for until she and her friend, Luke, find an old book that shows the history of mankind—a past that’s been hidden from them and all the citizens of Titus. As their curiosity takes them down a dangerous path, extraordinary events begin to occur, showing them God may exist and is reaching out to them through illegal art and a realm of paranormal activity. Monet and Luke find themselves at a crossroads: live within the safe, logical confines of Titus, or embrace the wild truth and risk death.
We all hold our breath as Barry Newt clears his throat from the stage.
“My dear Community, thank you for joining us today as we pay tribute to our most beloved volunteers. Let’s give them praise.” His coat flops around his sides as he pumps his arms in an attempt to get the crowd excited. We sputter out a few claps and give our salutes to the volunteers – I reserve mine for Luke only – but silence covers us as the image of Luke’s forbidden angel stares us down. Barry keeps talking but my attention fades out. The angel’s warrior stance is both intimidating and wondrous. Were these creatures only symbols of religion? There’s so much life in the one before us, I can’t imagine him being nothing more than scraps of metal.
Barry’s face drops – all eyes have shifted from him to the angel. He steps aside and gestures to the sculpture. His voice lowers, and he dons a frown.
“Someone has betrayed The Community.”
Everyone stares at the angel like they did at Martha’s statue, but no one kneels. Many of them pale, some cover their children’s eyes, and all take their voices captive.
Once the rest of the crowd is good and scared, Barry continues his speech. He talks about the destruction caused by cultists and the religion that has been banned for the safety of mankind, blah, blah, blah. All They have ever told us was that cultists got violent and were responsible for killing millions of people, causing the whole world to reinvent itself.
That’s an outline, not a story, and by law, no one is allowed to move outside Titus, so we are raised on Their words that may or may not be true.
I wish Luke had sculpted ten more angels just to spite the liars that rule our city.
Luke turns his head towards me and winks. How could They think an artist like him dangerous?
My heart finds its way to fear at Barry’s final statement.
“The sculptor and any accomplices will be rehabilitated.”
No one questions him; no one asks any what-if questions. Anything of the kind would draw suspicion. And by the look on Orca’s face, we all know what kind of rehabilitation it will be.
I hate Them.
This is the first in a new dystopian series for young adults set in the future fictional city of Titus, where religion and all forms of expressive art have been banned. When Monet’s friend Luke discovers a history book containing pictures of angels – symbols of the ‘cult’ Monet’s mother belonged to before she was taken away for ‘rehabilitation’ – he is compelled to sculpt them from scraps of metal and other bits and pieces he has found. He is convinced that the ruling Triad is not telling them everything, and he plans to create a series of these illegal sculptures to place around the outskirts of the city.
It is a dangerous enough mission in itself, but when a meteor crashes to earth right where one of Luke’s sculpted angels points its extended finger, Monet and Luke begin to suspect that there is much more going on than either of them understand. Their suspicions are realised when a strange phenomenon associated with the meteor produces ghostly images that allow them to watch history being replayed before their eyes. The quest for truth begins.
As the Triad closes in on Luke, Monet, and their friends Fox and Rand, they prepare to escape to the Wild Ones – those who live in the woods outside the boundary of Titus – but leaving Titus is forbidden and things don’t go according to plan. Monet is left behind in a city that is slowly fracturing, under the ever-watchful eye of The Triad. Can she awaken the citizens of Titus to the truth and find her way back to her friends before it’s too late?
This was a new-to-me author, and I found that I enjoyed the strong, well-paced writing. I also found the premise of a world where all forms of expressive art have been banned intriguing (although I can’t say I would like to experience it for myself!) although I would have loved it if this book had explored that concept a little more in its world building. For example, what impact would such a stricture have on society, apart from the obvious legal penalties for disobedience? How would it change individuals? In this novel we see the legal ramifications of challenging this law, but I couldn’t help feeling that there would have been deeper consequences arising from the absence of expressive art; after all, it is a defining characteristic of our Creator. Nevertheless, this was an engaging read as Monet and Luke struggled to make sense of the events unfolding in Titus.
This is only the first part of Monet’s story, so be prepared to be left anticipating the next part of their journey. I will be interested to see where it takes them.
I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 1 February 2016
Publisher: Darwin House Press
Author’s website: http://sherryrossman.com/