Thursday 6 April 2017

True Born (True Born Trilogy #1), L. E. Sterling

Evolve or die. What is the price of living?
Welcome to Dominion City.

After the great Plague descended, the world population was decimated…and their genetics damaged beyond repair.

The Lasters wait hopelessly for their genes to self-destruct. The Splicers pay for expensive treatments that might prolong their life. The plague-resistant True Borns are as mysterious as they are feared…

And then there’s Lucy Fox and her identical twin sister, Margot. After endless tests, no one wants to reveal what they are.

* * *
3 / 5 

I'm not really sure why I enjoyed this as much as I did. The science was dubious at best, the setting confused, and if the love interest had been burnt at the stake then True Born would have been 10x better. But I had fun nonetheless, which is why I award True Born 3/5 stars and have requested the sequel on Netgalley! So what's it all about? Rich, Upper Circle twin sisters Margot and Lucy live in Dominion City which is overrun by The Plague (capitals for dramatic effect) which divides humanity into three: Lasters who cannot be saved (if they catch The Plague, they're gonners), Splicers who can pay extortionate fees to extend their lives, and the True Born. 

Lucy and Margot are nearing their eighteenth birthdays where rich folks get thrown a party and told what their genes are. I'm not sure why they don't get told earlier since in such a ruthless world it would make (horrible) sense for rich folks to only want to raise Splicers. But nonetheless, they're anxious to find out what they are and all the while tensions are rising in the cities, violence is brewing in the streets. Their father, an exceedingly rich and important man, hires extra security in the form of Nolan Storm and his crew, which includes the love interest and major dickwad himself, Jared Price. They are True Borns - the book isn't exactly clear, but they are mostly people born with "animal genes" spliced into their normal human DNA. They might have fur or scales or claws. But most importantly they are resistant to The Plague. The plot kicks off with Margot going missing and absent parents and takes us on a wild ride through gunfights, weird conspiracies, and high class social functions. There's also a lot of preachers and cults. 

Margot commands all eyes while I, the sparrow, sit unnoticed and observe. Margot is fire: bright and ready to burn out of control. I am the less exciting twin, the responsible twin.

Lucy is our narrator. At the beginning she is exceedingly annoying. Her and Margot were conjoined twins but beyond looks (obviously Lucy thinks Margot is far more attractive) they're quite different; Margot is the risk taker and Lucy the obedient daughter under the strict thumb of her borderline abusive parents. Lucy meets Jared in the corridor at her school and, despite the fact that he is completely rude, her ovaries spontaneously combust. She literally cannot get him out of her mind. Has she never seen an attractive man before? Apparently not. Thankfully this weird "sexual awakening" vibe dies down a little bit as the plot picks up and Lucy's real personality can emerge. 

"The True Borns are my people. You are my people" And with those three little words my life is forever altered. Splicer. Laster. True Born.

Other than the Jared thing, I actually quite liked her. She's curious and gutsy, but knows when to shut up and deeply cares for her sister. She also has a reasonable amount of self awareness regarding her position and how she relates to society. Sterling semi-develops some philosophical ideas about what actions are permissible in political protest, through Lucy. The sisterly bond was one of my favourite bits of the novel. They have a sort of mental connection going on and when Margot is kidnapped and something rather horrific happens to her, Lucy knows. Margot trying to recover and Lucy trying to help her, but not really knowing how, is done quite well. There's a bit of the ~special~ children, chosen ones vibe going on, but it's not overdone. At least not yet.

Then there's Jared, merc for hire, and frankly an abusive jerk. He's constantly manhandling Lucy, smelling her, switching from hot-to-cold, and acting like its her fault that he's ~sooo irresistibly~ attracted to her that he has to be mean. Lucy even notes this behaviour herself and comments on it, but how the author manages to write something like 

Kind and caring Jared undoes me, unravels me until I no longer know whether I'm coming or going. Then jerkface Jared comes along and rips it all away

And not think, huh, maybe this romance isn't exactly healthy, is beyond me. If he'd been cut from the whole damn book there wouldn't have been much missing. 

Storm stands framed by floor-to-ceiling windows and crowned with a thorny, mature set of antlers that twinkle darkly in the glass. One ankle slightly crosses the other, like an elegant buck.

On the flipside, there's Nolan Storm. Graceful, powerful, beautiful Nolan Storm. He's a much better character by far. Whilst I love the fact that he's more of a fatherly figure/mentor for Lucy, I wouldn't have minded much if he'd been a love interest instead of Jared (though I'm not sure how old he is, so perhaps not). Nolan is a powerful True Born and a rich man with his own agenda. He protects Lucy and Margot, but also has his own motives that are perhaps not wholly good. Mostly I love him because he has antlers and can summon storms. But there's also a massive sense of duty to the True Borns, his people, the sense of a weight on his shoulders, and the magic and wonder of the unearthly unknown. Sterling puts it best: he's beautiful, so haunted with power, an unearthly being, a god. 

The worldbuilding is a bit weird and I'm fairly sure the whole Plague and animal gene thing makes very little scientific sense, but I'll overlook that as a matter of artistic licence. The city, Dominion, is bizarre. I got the impression that you either live on the street or you're mega rich, there's no "normal" people. Then Lucy and Margot's parents disappear and don't even seem to care that their daughter got kidnapped, just so long as they can pair her up with some sort of rich Russian business man. Then there's a recurring homeless boy who seems like he should be important but never really does anything, and some weird cult that wants the Fox sisters' blood. 

We can draw a path to the future with their blood. For blood is the answer, blood is the divine holy river, the Flood that shall deliver us.

To enjoy True Born you have to overlook a highly questionable love interest, dodgy science, and poor worldbuilding. However, I found the idea and execution of True Borns highly intriguing, and I grew to love Lucy, Margot, and Nolan. 

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