Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Nate Anteros and Catherine Taenia could not be more different. While both hail from reputable families, one has lived his existence in rebellion while the other has thrived under the privilege and protection afforded to her by virtue of her lineage. One night and a mysterious infection later, the two find themselves on the run from the King’s guards, with only each other to depend on. A Touch of Death has all the ingredients to make for a compelling dystopian novel – a brutal totalitarian state, a secret and dark history, and protagonists who seek true freedom, be it by their own will or the circumstances that forge their paths.
From the detailed world-building to the fascinating character dynamics and their development, this book marks a promising start to The Outlands Pentalogy. The Kingdom of Cutta has arisen from mass devastation caused by disease and radiation, heavily infusing the story with elements of biology-focused science-fiction that set it apart from some of the other dystopian series I have read. Furthermore, its parallels to some of the pertinent threats discussed in current society, from race supremacy to controlled reproduction, make for a thought-provoking read. This level of complexity and nuance is also true for the characters – the relationships in this novel are far from simple, making them more intriguing to follow and preventing them from falling into certain cliches. Catherine especially is a wonderful character, and her arc was easily one of my favorite parts of the book. It is also very easy to read – I finished most of it in a day, and the plot is fast-moving and engaging, especially once you find your bearings in the first few pages.
There were a few parts of the book that I wish had been developed further. The beginning of the novel is a little bit confusing and takes a while to get into – this is to be expected with any detailed new world but I did find myself quite lost at first. The book’s “parts” were also very long and while this might simply be a matter of personal preference, I saw many opportunities to organize the plot better through shorter chapters. In terms of the characters, the core relationship between Catherine and Nate developed very abruptly, and given how layered and complicated it is in nature, I would have liked to see more of a build up.
I would recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in dystopian or scientific fiction – especially if you are someone who enjoys books rooted in biological events such as pandemics and plagues. There is certainly room for improvement but the premise itself is intriguing enough that I will likely give the sequel a go soon! A special thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.