Epeolatry Book Review: Blackthorn

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Title: Blackthorn
Author: Terry Tyler
Genre: Dystopian YA
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: 25th November, 2019

Synopsis:  The UK, year 2139.
One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity.
Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything.
It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block, until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision, and promises to bring hope back to the people’s lives.
Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift’s spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor’s loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley.
Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder’s message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city?

Summary: Blackthorn (509 pages) by Terry Tyler is about an English settlement on the brink of a working-class uprising and civil war. In the year 2139, Evie Woods (age, early 20s) is a lower class citizen trying to survive in a world destroyed by disease, famine, and war. As tensions rise in Blackthorn, trusted friend of the community and adored traveler, Ryder Swift, returns to town. He experiences something miraculous that sets Blackthorn on a new path to salvation. While Evie works to sort out her own feelings about Rider and his experiences, she’s forced to consider what might be in store for her personal future and the futures of her loved ones in Blackthorn. When it seems Blackthorn’s new path may be headed toward an end more dangerous than its beginning, it is up to Evie and her friends to set things right.

Evaluation: This story is incredibly timely. Considering our current political and cultural climate, at times it almost reads like a cautionary tale. 

I am not typically drawn to 1st person narratives, so for me, the writing style was a bit difficult to navigate. And the chapters felt like journal entries from the characters, rather than living, breathing moments of action. I found myself unable to become fully immersed into the tale; however, the action moments (although passive) pulled me in. 

I really enjoyed the concept. In most dystopian future stories I’ve read, the focus is strictly on basic survival: food, shelter, and the like. Blackthorn incorporates spiritual revival and survival in a uniquely endearing manner. The subplot of the people trying to navigate love and connection with each other, while trying to survive as best they can on what little they have, is also great fun. That relatability elevates the account and made me care for these characters. Though this story was a bit challenging for me stylistically and at times the dialogue seemed unnatural and weighted, I was able to follow the plot. Each character had a distinct voice. No action felt superfluous; every moment moved the plot forward and gave insight into character motivation. 

Grammatically, the story was pretty tight. There were only a handful of typos. One thing that confused me—character point of view switched in Chapter 37. POV had been in 1st person throughout, but then in chapter 37 it switched to 3rd person. 

The books conclusion works for me. I think it entails great skill to write an ending that leaves the reader wanting more but not necessarily needing more. It’s a fine line to tread, and I believe Tyler accomplished it successfully.

Recommendation and rating: I would recommend this book to folks who enjoy a good dystopian YA but may be looking for something that asks different question about what is essential for the survival and rebuilding of humanity.

I rate this book a 3 out of 5. Although the passive tone of the narrative makes it difficult to stay immersed, the book has solid world-building. It offers a unique concept, relatable and recognizable tropes, distinguishable characters and interesting moments of action.

Available on Amazon.

Aundraa Polk

Aundraa Polk is an aspiring screenwriter and stage actor. She most recently appeared in An Act of God at the Playhouse at Allenberry and Shakespeare's Coriolanus at the Orangemite Theater in York, PA. Aundraa is an active member of the Fredricksen Writer's Group at Cleve J. Fredricksen Library in Camp Hill, PA.

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