The War Inside by M. Kircher
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (362 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
The end of the world is only just the beginning. So eighteen-year-old Thea discovers when her solitary life on a dying Earth is shattered by a mysterious dream, a devastating choice, and a strange gift that propels her on a journey towards the restoration of all mankind.
Thea is bitter and alone; a perfect embodiment of the sunless, cloud-covered Earth she inhabits. A terrifying dream convinces her to save the life of an injured girl, and despite her misgivings, Thea decides to rescue sixteen-year old Viviana. She soon learns that gentle Viv has a life-threatening infection, as well as a freakish patch of glowing skin over her heart. When this light spreads to Thea, she is forced to trust Caden, an arrogant, lazy, and annoyingly handsome boy she despises. Caden has a map to the last city on Earth, and the only place that might have a cure for both Viv’s infection and the strange light on Thea’s hands. As the trio embark on a journey through the barren wilderness, Thea and Caden try to fight their mounting attraction and discover that the light is not a curse, but a powerful gift meant to heal the polluted Earth and reconnect the remnants of humanity. What they don’t know is that deadly shadows watch them, waiting for the chance to make sure that humans stay in the darkness forever.
It’s foolish to risk your life to save someone who can never repay you. Or is it?
In some ways the scenery in this book is a non-sentient character. Thea and the people she meets on her journey are strongly affected by dark, stormy weather patterns that shift from one misery to the next. I was particularly intrigued by the author’s use of fog and rain as antagonists in certain scenes, especially once the contrast between Thea’s daily life and the patch of glowing light on the girl she rescues is fully explored.
The world building breaks down once the extent of the damage to the ecosystem becomes apparent. Only a small percentage of the plants and wildlife have survived the horrific damage to the environment, and nearly all of the water supply is deadly unless special precautions are taken to nullify it. While humans could survive a short time on what little food still exists I can’t see how anyone could live on that sort of diet longterm. There are a few hints about this aspect of the plot that I would have preferred to see fleshed out in more detail. Certain scenes lead me to make assumptions about Thea’s world that were never confirmed nor denied, although hopefully the sequels will delve into this topic in greater detail.
Thea’s personal growth was a highlight of this tale. She is a richly detailed character whose strengths and faults are interwoven from the very first scene. The dysfunctional society that produced her has clearly had an impact on the sort of person she’s become, but the author balances Thea’s past with the knowledge that each one of us chooses how we treat other people.
I would have liked to see more character development from the rest of the individuals who accompany Thea on her journey. Viv in particular comes across as someone who always makes the right decisions, and as much as I wanted to like her I had trouble relating to her persistent cheerfulness no matter what is happening around her. She also acts much younger than her chronological age. Once again I suspect that the author had a good reason for writing Viv this way, but giving all of the supporting characters more time to develop faults and strengths would have earned this book a higher rating.
The budding romance also feels out of place due to how quickly it occurs. The personality clashes between the two characters involved in this subplot provide quite a bit of plot fodder early on, so it was a little odd to see that dynamic shift so rapidly as the story progresses. While I understand why they found one another attractive, it would have been more realistic to push this aspect of their relationship to a later installment of this series given what readers learn about their backgrounds.
With that being said, I am looking forward to seeing how the chemistry plays out between the characters who develop crushes on one another. Once their friendship deepens and both of them have finished growing up I expect them to make a good couple.
It was difficult to determine the best age recommendation for this piece. Most of the characters are between the ages of 16 and 18, but they interact with one another as if they’re several years younger than that. I ultimately selected the 14+ age group due to brief violence and the romantic subplot I mentioned earlier.
The War Inside has piqued my interest. I’d recommend it to anyone in the mood for a fresh approach to the dystopian genre.