Pandora by Arabella Wyatt

Pandora by Arabella Wyatt
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (155 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Willowcombe Clatford. The perfect place to live. A village with standards. A village with morals. A village where everyone knows what is best for you…

Fourteen year old Pandora Laskaris moves with her family to Willowcombe Clatford, an idyllic village full of friendly neighbours and upright citizens, where the children are always well behaved, there are never any disagreements, and crime doesn’t exist.

Yet within this calm and beautiful place, Pandora comes to recognise that there is something wrong. What is happening behind the scenes at the village? Why do those who defy village opinion disappear? What part does Pandora’s traditionalist aunt, Mabel Whitemarsh, play in the sinister atmosphere that keeps the village quiet and obedient? And what is the link to the legendary Pandora’s Box of Greek mythology?

Willowcombe Clatford. The perfect place to live. A village with standards. A village with morals. A village where everyone knows what is best for you…

Is obedience a virtue? Who wouldn’t want to live in a quiet, peaceful village?

Pandora is an incredibly intelligent and likeable protagonist whose desire to get to the bottom of what is really happening in her new community propels the plot forward. One of the highlights in her character development comes when the reader is introduced to her two younger sisters early on in the plot. The warm relationship between all three siblings adds depth to Pandora’s personality and shows the soft edges of an otherwise tough and sometimes sharp-tongued teenager.

An in-depth description of the community that Pandora and her family live in before moving to Willowcombe Clatford makes for a slow start for this novel. While certain details are absolutely necessary in order to understand why Pandora’s parents are so eager to move, I would have preferred to jump into Pandora’s new environment a little more quickly. Using so much space to describe her old life compresses the development of later plot points and made the pacing uneven.

The rules governing Willowcombe Clatford were also confusing for me. It was difficult to predict what would happen to characters who pushed against them because the consequences vary so much from one person to the next. While some of these differences are eventually explained, I still had trouble understanding the exceptions to the rules as well as the logical limits that should apply to certain phenomenon.

This book is most appropriate for the 14+ age range due to violent content and mature subject matter. Pandora is a skeptical and inquisitive teen who asks great questions, but I would not recommend sharing her adventure to younger readers.

At the end there are hints that a sequel may be on the way. The ideas Ms. Wyatt introduces earlier on in the plot are a fascinating mixture of genres, and I hope that she will be able to spend more time exploring them in future novels. There is a lot of good material in this piece that is ripe for further exploration, and I would be excited to see how she develops it.

I’d recommend Pandora to anyone in the mood for a dystopian novel with an intriguing premise.

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