I usually read Gena Showalter’s adult series. I know she has one other YA series, that I have read. Though, unfortunately, she is not going to finish that series which disappointments me. I like her writing and storytelling and this sounded like an interesting concept. Your Firstlife is only a way of setting up for your Everlife. You have to choose between two realms (Troika and Myriad). Once you die you are taken to those lands and live a whole new life, one that lasts an eternity. I loved the concept but wasn’t sure where the story itself was going to go. Ultimately it was a story about choices, what they mean to us and how they effect the people around us.
Ten is being held in an asylum because she refuses to sign with Myriad. Myriad is the the realm that her parens have signed with and they are all about strength and winning. They like power and thrive in darkness. Troika is the opposite. Troika is about light and seeking the truth. They live life with a few simple principles. From the descriptions you would think that choosing wouldn’t be all that difficult but both realms have their benefits.
Ten refuses to make a choice. She doesn’t hate the idea, or resent Myriad for a reason. She just wants to be able to make her decision without the constant pressure from her parents and people around her. She grew up being told over and over again you have to choose. Some think one realm is better than the other and they are constantly pushing their agenda on her. She gets fed up and will not choose until she can think about the choices on her own without all the voices in her ear.
Ten plans on enduring the turmoil and torture of the asylum until her eighteenth birthday. Once she is a legal adult no one can force her to do anything, she can sign or not sign. No one has stake in her decision anymore. Problem is Ten is not just another soul, she is a special one. Both realms want her because she is a rare person who they need to take out the other realm. Because of this she is sent two Laborers, kind of like guides, who are charged with getting her to sign with one realm or the other. Archer is her Troika Laborer and Killian is her Myriad one.
They try desperately to make her choose but she refuses over and over again. Eventually they learn that this whole thing is bigger than any of them thought at first. There is much more going on and at stake. They begin to work together to keep Ten safe and help her decide what she needs to do.
At first Ten’s character confused me. I could not keep up with her thought process. She switched opinions with each new blink of her eye. One minute she hated Killian, the next she was falling for him. One second she was all about Troika and the next she realized that Myriad may have a point. I could not figure out what the girl wanted.
It took me about half of the novel to figure out how to exactly read her character. Ten’s whole life has been voices in her ear telling her how to think. She has not been able to make her own decisions ever. She is constantly being told to think one way, look one way and act a certain way. She was a puppet for a long time.
Once she gets out of the asylum suddenly she is on her own. She has to think for herself and she has no idea how to do that. She can’t decide because she never had to before. Her choices were never her own. They never hurt anyone because she never made them. Now, every move she makes matters and she is in turmoil.
She was frazzled for much of the novel but as it went on she began to figure out what was going on. She realized that her choices mattered. Realized that she had to think more before acting.
I liked that she even acknowledged her scattered way of acting and thinking. She would references her weird thinking manner. It felt very real to me. Someone who has been controlled for much of their life is going to all-over-the-place when they get to think for theirselves. They don’t know how to do it and they have to learn. We got to watch Ten learn that skill and that was interesting.
I liked this world. I loved the concept. The only issue I had though was the set up wasn’t the best. I found myself lacking details about how exactly things worked. The rankings confused me at times and concepts like Fusion were a bit hard to follow. They had basic definitions but I found myself not really connecting them to the story and their point in the story.
I thought for much of the book that we were supposed to like both realms. They both had good points and bad points. I thought we weren’t supposed to make a choice but that changed in the end. I won’t say which is the “villain,” but I found that a bit jarring. I liked thinking both were decent places to live. To find out one was harmful and sadistic was hard to come to terms with. I’m hoping I can find a connection to the realms better in the next book.
Archer and Killian were two fascinating characters that I want to know more about. They are from opposite realms but have a deep history with one another. There is an interesting connection there that I want to learn more about. Both of them have these outside personalities that they portray to the world but have much more to them. I like that they opened up and we learned who they really were throughout the story. I hope we get too see more of them in the next novel and get to learn more about their history.
I really enjoyed this story. I thought it was fun and interesting. A new concept that kept my attention. I think the world building could have been stronger but hopefully that improves with the next book. If you like YA, witty characters, and a story about learning who you are and what you can do, you will enjoy this one!