4 out of 5 stars.
Man, did I ever enjoy this one. And the best part? It is a finished series!! I do not have to wait to find out what happens!! Woohoo!
I am very surprised this book is not waaaay more popular after The Hunger Games. It has the same type of plot, teens being forced to survive and even fight each other thanks to silly government policy. In this series, what is at stake is a chance to go to University and become a leader. The testing is not optional and getting something wrong could mean your life. This book leaned a bit more towards survivalist fiction and less towards “arena of science fiction horrors” but it reads in much the same way. The characters are forced through a series of vicious tests and ultimately asked to survive a long hike through wilderness where it is perfectly acceptable to try and pick off the competition.
I found this delightfully suspenseful and hard to put down. The plot was full of action and satisfying. It was a great cross between dystopian lit. and survivalist fiction. The characters weren’t overly interesting, but I was reading more for the plot than anything.
The second one has a different tone, with the survivors going off to University. Suddenly, there are a ton more characters. We also finally get to have some meaningful adult characters. The intrigue and action get bigger and more involved with the overall world. Cia has to deal with her recovering memories and being the only student who really knows how deadly failing at the university can be. I usually don’t like the middle book in trilogies, but this one is fantastic. I found the challenges and tests that the students were put through in school to be different enough from the tests in the first book that it really kept my interest. The overall story is progressing nicely from individual survival to rebellion and disgust with the system. I cannot wait to read the next.
The third one I found a little rushed for the epic conclusion of a series I enjoyed so much. It is similar to the second one, with a global focus, and still has a full complement of characters. There are a couple of interesting twists throughout that keep it rushing ahead, and I really liked the irony of Cia having to use Testing methods of her own to find out who she can trust. I also really appreciated that the people she chooses to trust are not all saints who are ready to sacrifice everything for a cause, but self-interested individuals making their own calculations. Much more believable. I just wish the book had been about twice the length. The very end of the book seems really compressed. You read along and look at the pages left and wonder how the heck the author is going to pull it off.
All in all, a fantastic, exciting series that is perfect for fans of dystopic fiction.