The world is divided into two: those with Skill – the Equals – and those without – the commoners. In England, the Equal aristocrats rule, and the commoners by law must give up a decade of their life to what’s known as slavedays. During that decade, which can begin as early as ten years old or as late as fifty-five, commoners become non-people, forced into whatever work is needed without pay or respite. And now that the youngest member of the Hadley family has turned ten, all five of them enter their slavedays together. They’re meant to serve on an Equal’s estate, a cushy job as far as slavery goes. Of course, not all goes to plan.
This book is told from many points of view, including both commoner and Equal. It falls into a dystopian/alternate history/fantasy range of genres, and is the first of a trilogy (next book due out this year). Having read this book almost directly after another similar setup (Red Queen), I was worried I would feel burned out. I didn’t. Red Queen was fun, but I had some issues with it, and it didn’t completely sweep me away. This one swept me away. I started in print, bought the audio from Audible so that I could keep listening as I went about my day, and sped through the entire audio in a single afternoon. The book was absolutely excellent!
It had everything I love in this kind of fantasy: excellent world-building, lots of character development, a world that is not as black and white as it first appears, characters that make bad decisions for good reasons, good timing/pacing, perfect setup for multiple books, lots of questions still to be answered, etc. Of course, no book is perfect, but honestly I can’t immediately think of anything that I’d call a complaint. The only thing I worry about is my own speedy reading, which tends to make me forget a book quickly. I’ll likely have to revisit in the future before moving on to later volumes.
Performance: The audio is read by Avita Jay, who does an absolutely amazing job. I highly recommend it!