ARC Review: “Renegade” by J. A. Souders

RenegadeRenegade (The Elysium Chronicles #1) by J. A. Souders

Goodreads | Amazon

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.

3 ½ stars

Thank you to TorTeen for this ARC! This book is now available!

I had very high hopes for Renegade, I’m not going to lie. It sounded almost too good to be true. I’m a sucker for stories that play with genetics, and—despite the obvious choice of love interest—the storyline looked unique and interesting.

I hate when I don’t get everything that I’m hoping for.

Renegade starts off ridiculously creepy. Like, good creepy. So fantastically creepy. Souders uses an interesting technique between chapters that excellently shows off how Evie’s mind is being altered by her mother. You are shown Mother’s cruelty right away as well, which sets the tone for the rest of the book. Don’t be fooled by the pretty cover; Renegade doesn’t shy away from blood and killing.

Things start to break down right around when Gavin, the Surface Dweller, is introduced. No, I’m not saying this just because I found their love story cliché. (I did, but that’s not the point.) The sessions where Evie is “interrogating” him are clearly an info dump opportunity so that we can learn more about the world, and I have no idea why they weren’t shot on spot right away. There is no way that Mother has all these security features and doesn’t have microphones in her jail cells.

It’s at this point that information starts to get jumbled. Souders has created a very complex world, and in the end that does her a disservice. A few too many things are glossed over or left unexplained entirely. A few key plot points are fixed almost magically. Certain characters turn bipolar and their actions make no sense.

I guess being frustrated that I never completely understood the world or the technology is sort of a good thing. After all, it means I was invested enough to want to know. It’s entirely possible that another reader, not looking as closely, wouldn’t notice the slip ups. I don’t know. What I do know is that there are world building holes I wish had been filled so that I could have a better grasp on the back story that Souders was attempting to make a key point but kept getting marginalized.

Evie’s story in itself was pretty gripping. The mental conditioning she had had was super creepy but super awesome at the same time. What can I say? I like narrators with fractured minds; it’s very interesting to read when done right. I wish, of course, that Gavin hadn’t been there, because then maybe Evie’s troubles would have been a little more compelling without the guy there to save her, but I digress.

Also, Gavin being there resulted in too many weird, sexually-charged moments. Like, he can’t climb a ladder because he’s distracted because he can see up her skirt? He watches her change in a mirror, even though she says don’t look? Gavin cannot be both her knight in shining armor and a creep. Just saying.

All in all, I wanted to like Renegade a lot more than I did. The world and plot were very interesting, but Souders got tangled up in her own complexities and got a little lost. Evie herself completely won my investment, but the story and the other characters didn’t back her up as well as they could have. I would tell you to give this a try if you’re in the mood for yet another dystopian, but I wouldn’t put it on my MUST BUY list. Goodreads lists this as number one in a series (which I didn’t realize, because it doesn’t really leave anything on a huge cliffhanger—it could be read as a standalone), but it’ll be a coin toss to see whether or not I pick up number two.

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