Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.
But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.
Her memories have been altered.
Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.
And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.
Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.
**This is Book 1 in the Elysium Chronicles. So far, there are three main novels -- the third set to be released this November -- in the series,
as well as two Kindle-only short stories.
Sixteen year old Evelyn lives in the underwater colony Elysium and is known as "The Daughter Of The People". Her mother, just known as "Mother" to everyone in this world, is ruler. Mother is trying to develop a perfect race, a perfect community free of crime or disease. Everyone above the sea is known as a Surfacer and is considered the worst kind of threat to Elysium. Evelyn is raised to believe and go along with everything Mother says until the day she meets Gavin, a Surfacer not much older than her... and Gavin doesn't seem so bad. Certainly not as evil as she's been raised to believe! In fact, as time goes on, she feels a magnetic kinship with Gavin and can't understand the level of hate / fear Elysium citizens have for Surfacers. Gavin, considered a sort of "enemy of the state", is thrown into the small prison Elysium does have for those who don't respond to Conditioning (ie. Mother's brainwashing techniques, those who prove strong enough to think for themselves). Evelyn is initially sent to interrogate Gavin to learn what she can of the Surfacers, but as she gets to know him, a friendship & flirtation develops. Gavin even gets Evelyn to see what Mother has been doing to the people of Elysium.
"Mother is the Governess. She compensates everyone by his or her designation. We're allotted quarters, a certain amount of food, and credits to spend based on that and whether we have family or not."
"If you're given food and shelter, why do you need money -- credits?"
"For the extra things. Like clothing, amusements, the Bazaar where Artisans sell their wares. Not everyone is given money by the Governess, you know."
"Okay, so who isn't compensated and why not?"
"Well, just the Artisans really, because they sell their wares and earn money that way. Mother says they create more beautiful things when they have to worry where their cred--money is going to come from."
Evelyn comes to learn from Mother that Gavin, having not given up any useful information, is facing a death sentence. Finding herself falling for him, Evelyn puts into motion a plan to help Gavin escape prison and get back to the Surface. It's only when she starts to carry out this escape plan that she really sees the true core of evil that lies within the woman she knows as Mother.
I was really excited for the concept of this novel since I seem to be a sucker for dystopian or underwater worlds and this seemed to be a little bit of both. It took me a little while to really get into this book though --- a large portion of the book actually. I was liking it but not really loving it. I was curious why Mother was as cold as she was in the beginning, just how evil her character would turn, so that kept me reading. Mother seems SO obsessed with power, being the creator & controller of the perfect race, perfectly blonde and blue-eyed, immune to any and all disease. She puts together teams of scientists to experiment with gene manipulation and nanobot technology (to be used to clean the blood of sick citizens), developing mind control programs so she can influence citizens into doing, saying or feeling only what SHE wants, getting them to the point where they won't think twice about killing anyone who challenges her methods or her vision. Honestly, it all made me wonder if Souders was playing off what we know of Hitler and his drive to create the perfect Aryan race.
I liked Gavin, but I found Evelyn a little flat as a character. She did start to grow on me some near the end, so that makes me curious to continue the series and see how or if she develops. Gavin and Evelyn, I admit, did make kind of a cute couple but there were a few times where their smooshy face love moments got a little gag inducing for me (to be fair though, that is kind of a by-product of late teen first love).
I also liked the world of Elysium, I just found myself wishing it had been fleshed out a little more. Some of the descriptions were a little confusing or not explained well enough. There were also some minor issues I had with the writing itself. There were some continuity issues in the plot. It takes 120 pages for us to meet the girl that is suppose to be Evelyn's best friend in the entire world -- if she's such an important person, why does she not come into the storyline sooner? Also, I think I read some variation of the line "I dug my nails into my palms, breaking skin" AT LEAST 3-4 times. Got a bit repetitive for me. But this is Souders' debut novel, so a reader has to allow for room to grow, I think.
The plot intensity does go up a good in the last quarter or so of the novel. There's enough here to leave me curious enough to continue on with the series -- let you know how it goes!