- Title: New World: Rising
- Author: Jennifer Wilson
- Publisher: Of Tomes Publishing
- Year Published: 2014
- Setting: The dystopian city of Tartarus
- Point of View (POV): First person narrator
- Themes: Identity, Trust, Alliances, Survival, Corrupt Government, Rebellion
- My Rating: 9/10
- Favourite Quotes:
- “Once I had opened a book and read its pages, those characters could never be taken away from me. Even if the books were burned, they would still live on in my mind” (Wilson 20).
- “‘Even the most gentle people have a dark side you know’ . . . ‘I know,’ . . . ‘It’s how you control that darkness that defines you’” (Wilson 78-79).
- “There is no good or evil here, it all depends on what side you’re standing. Nor is it about wrong or right, it’s about surviving” (Wilson 151).
*WARNING! THIS REVIEW – LIKE ALL OF MY REVIEWS – CONTAINS SPOILERS!*
New World: Rising is a young adult dystopian novel about a girl, Phoenix, who lives in the city of Tartarus. In Tartarus, there are five Tribes: Ravagers, Scavengers, Taciturns, Wraiths, and Adroits, and the Tribes’ motto is “Join or die” (Wilson 7). Phoenix, however, refuses to do either and instead survives on her own from the time she was eleven and had witnessed her parents’ brutal murders. But then she sees a pack of Ravagers hunting a ten-year-old girl who later decides she wants to be called Mouse. After years of choosing to live and survive alone, something changes that makes tough, unemotional, intimidating, self-reliant Phoenix want to risk her life to save the girl. Injured in her fight with the Ravagers, Phoenix falls unconscious, and when she wakes up, she finds herself in an unfamiliar place with people that bear no Tribe allegiance markings. She soon learns that these people are The Subversive, a group whose focus is to escape Tartarus and take down The Sanctuary – the supposed utopia that, in reality, is controlled by a corrupt government. Working with The Subversive, Phoenix and Mouse contribute their knowledge – Phoenix’s being of Tartarus and Mouse’s of The Sanctuary – to help them in their cause. Along the way, Phoenix meets Triven, a kindhearted, caring bookworm, who is also a very talented fighter and a young leader of The Subversive. They begin as friends, but against her instincts, Phoenix begins to fall in love with him.
The height of the conflict in this novel comes after the plans and preparations to gain access to The Sanctuary are complete, and Phoenix, Triven, Mouse, and the others from The Subversive set off. Despite their attempts to stop her, Mouse is cleverer than the others give her credit for and she succeeds in going with Phoenix and Triven into The Sanctuary, instead of being taken back to the safety of The Subversive. Much of their team is lost in an attack from the Ravagers, so only five of them were able to sneak in, including Phoenix, Triven, and Mouse. Once they are out on the streets of The Sanctuary, Phoenix is forced to make decisions that will either lead to her saving herself or saving the others. It is only on the last page of the novel that Phoenix realizes that Triven and Mouse are “the only two people [she] ever loved” (Wilson 318).
I definitely became emotionally invested in this novel. I rooted for Phoenix to open up to her newfound friends, I felt protective and cared about Mouse, I fell in love with Triven, and I hated Maddox and his self-righteousness. The characters in this novel were very well developed and reading their character arcs was one of the best aspects of the book. The Tribes were also a fascinating element, and the first few pages in which the illustrations explained the different behaviours, colours, and markings of each Tribe were a great addition to the novel’s world building. I only wish that the novel had spent more time interacting with the different Tribes, for some of them – like the Adroits – were hardly mentioned. I hope that in the next two books they are given a larger role. I am definitely planning on reading the rest of the trilogy as soon as possible, mostly due to the cliffhanger at the end. I NEED to know what happens next!
Jennifer Wilson’s writing style is straight-forward and easy to read. Although there were some information dumps, they didn’t particularly bother me since her descriptions were a perfect mix of lyrical and to-the-point. I did not see her plot twists coming, especially the revelation of Arstid’s secondary identity. The novel maintained a fast pace throughout its chapters, with barely any quiet, tensionless moments. Just when you think you can relax after a huge action scene, Wilson shocks you again. I adore books and authors that can continue to surprise me, and in a genre like dystopian fiction – which has a certain predictable formula that experienced readers will expect when they start reading – surprises are uncommon. Thus, I will definitely be returning to this series and will hopefully be reading more by Jennifer Wilson in the future.
New World: Rising follows Bean & Moni’s definition of young adult fiction, due to its use of “perceptive, sensitive, intelligent, mature, and independent” teenage characters, especially the protagonist (638). Phoenix offers readers the opportunity to observe a female protagonist who intentionally detaches herself emotionally from many of the people and situations around her. This is uncommon even in dystopian novels, because even if a female protagonist is emotionally detached, she always has a pre-existing weakness (for example, Katniss’ weakness for her little sister in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games) that shows readers that despite the way she appears, she still has a soft spot for someone or something. Phoenix is different. She lost her parents six years ago and became a hardened, independent survivor as a result. At the beginning of the novel, Phoenix is alone and is strong in her self-imposed isolation. It is only after around forty pages or so that the reader, and Phoenix herself, learns that she has a weakness: an innocent little girl, reminiscent of how she used to be before the deaths of her parents. This novel shows young, female readers that it is okay to be emotionally closed off, but it is also beneficial to yourself and others to open up to people.
As a dystopian novel, New World: Rising definitely succeeds. Without a doubt, it will “frighten and warn” readers about “pressing global concerns,” such as total government control where those who are not deemed worthy of saving could end up in hellish circumstances (Basu et al. 1). Tartarus is where those not let into the Sanctuary were forced to stay, and it is accurately named, for it derives from the Greek myth in which Tartarus is a deep abyss where the Titans are imprisoned and made to suffer. Prejudice is alive in today’s world, and if it is allowed to progress, who knows what the repercussions would be. The novel depicts “a postapocalyptic struggle for survival [and] a valiant attempt to retain individuality in a totalitarian world,” which is typical of the genre, but is here presented in a new and unique way (Basu et al. 4).
I would absolutely recommend this novel to anyone that is remotely interested in dystopian fiction (and even to those who aren’t!). This novel gives a fresh take on the tropes of the genre and includes characters that readers will become emotionally invested in. The setting and the idea of the Tribes is so intriguing and the ending leaves the audience wanting more. I gave New World: Rising a 9 instead of a 10 out of 10 only because I occasionally got annoyed with Phoenix not opening up to the other characters and because of a couple of information dumps, but this did not actually hinder my reading experience very much at all. I cannot wait to continue with this trilogy and keep learning more about this unique dystopian world.
Basu, Balaka, et al. Introduction. Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers, by Basu et al, Routledge, 2015, pp. 1-15.
Bean, Thomas W., and Karen Moni. “Developing Students’ Critical Literacy: Exploring Identity Construction in Young Adult Fiction.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 46, no. 8, 2003, pp. 638-648.
Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, theeditorsblog.net/2011/06/07/checklist-for-editors. Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.
Wilson, Jennifer. New World: Rising. Of Tomes Publishing, 2014.