Author: Amy A. Bartol
Goodreads Synopsis: Firstborns rule society. Secondborns are the property of the government. Thirdborns are not tolerated. Long live the Fates Republic.
On Transition Day, the second child in every family is taken by the government and forced into servitude. Roselle St. Sismode’s eighteenth birthday arrives with harsh realizations: she’s to become a soldier for the Fate of Swords military arm of the Republic during the bloodiest rebellion in history, and her elite firstborn mother is happy to see her go.
Televised since her early childhood, Roselle’s privileged upbringing has earned her the resentment of her secondborn peers. Now her decision to spare an enemy on the battlefield marks her as a traitor to the state.
But Roselle finds an ally—and more—in fellow secondborn conscript Hawthorne Trugrave. As the consequences of her actions ripple throughout the Fates Republic, can Roselle create a destiny of her own? Or will her Fate override everything she fights for—even love?
I read this book via Amazon’s Kindle First program.
Not another teen dystopian novel! Honestly, someone needs to do a parody of dystopian novels if they haven’t already. 10/10, would read, would buy seafood dinner.
Secondborn’s dystopian identifier is in its title. All second born children are handed over to the government as slaves, and the first born children rule the world. I thought this book offered a unique take on the “realms separated by factions” trope that we have seen so often in YA. Amy Bartol is very detailed in her world building and explained the politics and terminology very well, but it felt like a lot of information at once. Thank God for the glossary in the back of the book (that I didn’t realize was there until I had finished reading).
Our protagonist, Roselle St. Sismode (try saying that 5x fast…) is a second born. Her mother is the Clarity (leader) of her fate (caste system), whose high ranking has forced Roselle to live in the spotlight her entire life. Luckily, Roselle isn’t jaded by her privileged upbringing, and uses her celebrity as a means to help others. She has been trained as a fighter since she could walk, and is a natural born leader. While she is a bit naive, Roselle has a hero’s heart and is loyal to the people she loves. Yada-yada, oppressed second class rebels against their oppressors, led by a skinny white girl with a Mary Sue complex, yada.
The characters were distinctive and seemed to fit in well with the protagonist. There were a few characters that made an appearance only to never be mentioned again, but for the most part, every character had a purpose and a personality.
The pacing here was terrible. The first third of the book was pretty slow, due to detailed world building. We get detailed explanations about the weirdest things at the most bizarre times. Roselle learns about how soldiers get sex privileges right after surviving a terrorist attack and leaving the only father figure she has ever known. I suppose this was a way to hammer in the romance aspect early, but it could have been handled more naturally. There was time to build up the tension between these characters, but instead they got the insta-love special. About halfway through, we have a time jump (which wasn’t necessary to the plot in any way, whatsoever) and an entire year is described in two pages. The pacing did even out for the second half of the book, but the first half definitely put a bad taste in my mouth. I couldn’t figure out why the time jump was important and why our characters couldn’t have just continued as usual. I nearly put the book down and stopped reading, but didn’t, thankfully. Once Amy found her pacing, the rest of the book flowed very well.
All of that being said, I thought Secondborn was an interesting read. While Amy borrowed from a lot of dystopian tropes, she reworked them in a unique way. It was easy to be invested in certain characters, and in the world they live in. Amy’s imagination knows no bounds, as her futuristic and technological society is almost nothing like I’ve ever read before. 3.5 stars for selective poaching, bad pacing, and the need for a strong edit. Can’t wait to read book 2! 🙂