Just Finished…The Testing Trilogy

Maybe an odd few spoilers in here, so tread carefully, just as you might if you were going through The Testing yourself!:)

In the last couple of weeks I’ve read the three books that make up ‘The Testing’ trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau. I think I downloaded the first book in the series a year or so ago, when it was on a free Amazon download day… I picked it up because it was pegged as being for ‘fans of the Hunger Games…’ and with a blurb like this, you can see why:

Testing

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same? 

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one. 

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

See? Handsome boy from your home sector – check. Students chosen from outer colonies to come to the capital city for ‘Testing’ – check. Deadly competition and questionable morals amongst the candidates, check and check!

I think it was the reported similarities to The Hunger Games that made me avoid reading this for so long. I loved The Hunger Games: the competition, the rebellion, Katniss and Peeta (yep, Team Peeta, not the other guy – Katniss is the narrator and you never got the romance vibe from her in relation to him, did you?) The relationships between the characters as well, from Rue and Haymitch, through to Finnick and Mags – they all had good depth and realism, which I loved throughout that series and for me made it very strong.

Anyway, I’d not read any YA dystopian for a while and so I picked this up in the end and gave it a whirl – and it was worth it! Book one was good, book two was even better I thought – it moved further away from the Hunger Games-esque arena and built out it’s own world and plot.

After blasting through the first two books in this trilogy, I did stall a bit when it came to ‘Graduation Day’. I really liked the world built up in the first two books and in a way, keeping Cia’s world more compact (either controlled as part of the Testing, or built around her place at University) made her actions and the scale of the story realistic.

When we move to the final installment Cia doesn’t seem as ‘changed’ as she continually tells you that she is – this was something that started to grate on me a little in this final book. It felt like there was a lot more tell over show in this part and the characters that you were familiar with from books one and two began to feel a little more like cardboard cut-outs, despite the fact that you knew them already and could have seen their behaviours come out, rather than Cia telling you how she was interpreting things.

Overall, after two good books with plenty of pace and action, bounded nicely within the areas they were set inside, the third one fell flat. The various climactic elements left me a bit cold if I’m honest, which is a shame as the set up was good. I think for me – as some other reviewers pick up – things became quite unrealistic in the third book: the scope of what Cia got tasked with seemed inconsistent with the scale of everything else happening around her and her ever-present bag of magic tricks became a crutch. How could they be advance enough to manipulate genetics and do complex chemical engineering to revitalise their world, but not have anything more than basic communications, which a university student can apparently knock together in a workshop pretty quickly.

This is a good series and some comparisons to The Hunger Games are fair, particularly in the first book. But by the second it does stride out in its own direction, which I really enjoyed – the third book delivers many of the answers following the set up in the other books, it just didn’t grip me to the end as I hoped it might.

Overall I’d rate the series 4* – it is very readable and enticed me enough to buy the next two books in the series, having read the first one for free. I would have just liked something more, something different from the ending that was delivered.

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Just Finished…Divergent by Veronica Roth (Minor spoilers)

 

I picked this one up cold from a vibe from Goodreads. Quite a few people seemed to be talking about it and making it book of the month. Having read the 500 pages in under a weekend, I can see why.

The story is set in a crumbling Chicago of the future, some time after an unspecified ‘war’. Society has rebuilt itself along tribal lines: Abnegation, selfless charity workers, Amity, friends to everyone, Candor, who never lie, and Dauntless, the closest to the military. Everyone belongs to one clan, above all other sentiments, even to their family.

When Beatrice Prior is tested to see which clan she should take for the rest of her life, she’s stunned to discover she’s ‘Divergent’, having attributes of more than one clan. Told to hide her test results or her life will be in danger, she chooses the hard and brutal life of a Dauntless, fearless and militaristic. I was expecting her to announce she was Divergent at the start of the book, but it didn’t turn out like that.

The book follows her training and selection, and at times is brutal and honest in its description of the violent life the Dauntless lead, though never to the detriment of the story, or simply for gore. There’s also a romance between Beatrice and her instructor, an understated sub-plot that becomes more important at the end of the book. That was the only part that felt flat for me – there didn’t seem to be much chemistry between them.

The characters are all drawn well, each has their own personalities and weaknesses and strengths. Only the villains Peter and Molly seemed a little cartoonish, but that didn’t stop them from being brutally efficient at removing the competition.

Every page of this book has something going on. Either Beatrice is being tested, is falling in love, is trying to discover what it means to be ‘Divergent’ and why she should hide it, or is trying to stop war breaking out.

There isn’t a space wasted, and the pace of the book doesn’t slow at all. I rocketed through it, stuck to every page.

I can’t wait to swallow up the sequel.

4/5

A cheeky reblog of my cover reveal from today – well if I can’t share it here, where can I? 🙂

Mel x

Mel Cusick-Jones

I’m very excited to reveal the cover art for The Rainbow Maker’s Tale – Book 2 in The Ambrosia Sequence, which is due for release in summer 2012… This is the partner story to Hope’s Daughter – let me know what you think! 🙂

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