These are bleak times, when men are savages who do what they like when they like, and when women are treated like property, to be passed around like so many baubles, to do demeaning tasks, and to get absolutely no praise for their efforts. The leaders of this world use others to maintain order in what would otherwise be a chaotic place — by any means necessary. These Reapers kill on command, and they’re generally seen to be heartless machines, but things are not always as they seem. This is the world of Reave, the debut novel from an up-and-coming author, C. Miller.
What do you do when you’re taken from the only home you’ve ever known, only to be given away to someone else as their property, a servant in the lowest caste system your society has? This is the problem facing Aster, a young girl who is blossoming into womanhood as a servant in the Valdour House. But perhaps “blossoming” is putting a candy coating on a bitter pill to swallow. She has been taught subservience on every level, that men are all only after one thing, but she must call them “Sir” regardless of what she does or doesn’t want to do or say. It drives her insane, but she’s now allowed to voice those feelings.
But the story only starts there. During the course of this novel (the first in a planned series) Aster finds her way in a rapidly changing world, discovering her true self along the way. A Reaper arrives who makes her question the way things have always been done, and forces her to think about her real place within the world she has called home for way too long. Does she have what it takes to become someone she should have been all along? Or will she retreat into the shell of a person she has become in her world?
The complex reasoning and underpinnings to this novel make it a worthy read for anyone looking to explore alternate societies that derive from the worst in human nature. What C. Miller does in Reave is force us as readers to make the same decisions as Aster, and whether or not she succeeds ties us to her in myriad ways. While we may not agree with some of those decisions, we always understand why she does what she does. That’s the mark of an author who knows her characters, and who can convey those motivations at will. That is what takes Reave from just another one of those “dystopian” novels, and puts it in a class by itself within the young adult genre.
I give the novel FIVE stars.