Author: Aimée Carter
Release: November 26th 2013
Genre: Dystopia, YA
#1 in the Blackcoat Rebellion trilogy
Sequels: Captive (#2), Queen (#3)
YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING.
For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.
If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.
There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.
It's sad to say, but has to be said nonetheless: If you have read Carter's The Goddess Test and your eyeballs nearly fell out, surely you must be wondering if, maybe, she has improved since then? And my answer to that is no, not really. Yes, this is leagues better than her first novel, but compared to all of the other YA novels out there, it still doesn't stand a chance. I am happy to see that she is on the road to improvement, though, and I do hold out hope for her. A little, at least.
The dystopian world Carter has set up for her novel is as unsurprising as they get, very cliché and random with a caste system, an aptitude test and one ruling house, creating an illusion of fairness and justice, but really, the whole lot is just corrupt and the citizens are exploited. Nothing I haven't seen before and not only that, but it wasn't even very well explained. It felt like she woke up one day after having finished her Goddess Test series, on the hunt for a new one and simply decided to write a dystopian world because hey, they're all the rage right now, right? She then went on thinking, how can I do this with as little effort on my behalf as possible? Right, just give them something they all already know, that way I don't even really have to explain anything, I mean, they already know how it goes! Yes, I did, more or less, but I still would have liked a little more world building. If you decide to go cheap then at least do it well.
And the plot is still mostly as uneventful as in The Goddess Test, too. The transition from her III life into her taking over Lila Hart's VII life was very rough and didn't flow seamlessly. And then for the first 200 pages, the plot is only sitting around in a lavish suite and lounging around, plotting a little, yes, but no real substance. I will give Carter one thing, the plot does pick up around page 250, although it still felt very underwhelming (at least, for me). I enjoyed that part though, they were some really, really nice and unexpected plot twists thrown in there that made me see some potential in all of this, but ultimately, my final verdict on the plot would be that it was mostly uninteresting. Sadly.
What really killed this however, above all else, is the horrible, horrible romance. It was already a serious issue in her other books, or book since I only read the first one, and it ruined Pawn once more. Yes, as much as the whole girl meets boy, boy meets girl is getting old, there's also a lot of things surrounding that trope that are very easy. Because if you're going to introduce a couple that has known, and more importantly even been with, each other already prior to the start of the book, you simply telling me that they love each other and have been together for so long won't convince me that they're actually a good match. No, you'll still have to prove to me that these two fit and are good for each other, and Carter did not do that with her romance in this one. Kitty and Benjy have known each other all their life and been a couple for about a few years, if I remember correctly, prior to the start of Pawn, and they're already in full fluff and sweet talk mode from page 1. Kissing and making out, and telling one another they're all they have etc, just kill me now, please. It was not sweet, not cute, it was simply annoying and I already hated their romance, and also Benjy because he seemed to be a controlling douchebag, before page 20. Needless to say, this did not get better as the story progressed and in fact, only got worse since Kitty is always worried about his safety and her constant whinery only made me hate her, too.
So, yup, the characters didn't make the story any better either. I never got around to liking Kitty, her always acting like a diva made me want to punch her, and then she was so stupid all the time, I just... GAH. She made me so freaking mad, if I ever met this girl on the street, I would so bitchslap her. Trust me. For a while, I was starting to like Lila, who is actually a dead girl that we don't even get to know, but one little plot twist later on ruined that as well. The other characters though were mostly okay, I was intrigued by Celia and her motives and I think she was a really well done character actually. The only one though, and while Augusta came close to being a good one too one time, that slight depth she got there was then never talked about or brought up again, which promptly destroyed any hopes I had for her.
That being said, I probably will not be reading the sequel, I'm already being quite generous with the 2.5 because I think Carter has some potential, and she was able to write a couple really nice scenes here and there when she wanted to, but overall, she still has to sort out some of her priorities. Maybe she should try writing a novel without a romance once, because they always seem to be the worst about her books. I'll keep an eye for her future works, who knows, maybe 3rd time will be a charm.