Series: Divided Elements #1
Published by: KYRIJA
ISBN 13: 9780995421820
Published: January 2017
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic Paris (which only seems more and more eerily possible what with the awful violence there this year), we have a nation that’s divided into four elements – fire, water, air, and earth. Everyone is born anonymously directly into nurseries so your loyalty can only be to your fellow elements. We first meet Kane 148 only to see him executed immediately. He was a fire elemental, as are Anaiya 234 and Niamh (number unknown at this stage) who are peacekeepers, and who we meet next, out on their rounds interrupting violence and breeches of the peace. Until, when Anaiya goes home and discovers something they all find chilling, and from there the plot takes off in appropriately fast moving action.
What I loved about this setting straight from the start was the well worn divisions in community. The fire elementals ensure the peace, water elementals find solutions, air elementals inspire and teach, and earth elementals keeps the wheels of progress turning. And it’s done well. We have seemingly a grittier version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (in world building alone), where each section of people dislike the other – fire dislikes the air for their ‘obsession with thoughts and ideas and emotions’, which entirely alien to Anaiya, and so forth.
Initially I was confused as to the blurb saying it’s set in Paris, and then only seeing the place called Otpor for a decent section of the book (and Otpor being to me a Serbian protest group making it all the more confusing…) As I’ve never been to France, maybe the use of Otpor was a clever development however it wasn’t apparent to me how it connected with the blurb mentioning Paris as I didn’t see much of Paris (though I’ve never been there… what media portrays Paris to be like), throughout the book (other than one character using a few words offhandedly). The worldbuilding was quite vivid in itself however, with districts marked out, curfew enforced, food and drinks described as well as their clothes. It all worked quite well indeed.
The characters are fleshed out in their elements adequately, but are then their own person still through and through, slowly revealed to the reader in a way that gives depth to the character. Although first you feel connected with Niamh, soon you come to see many other characters with even more empathy, and soon you don’t know what division of elementals you yourself would like to be part of.
The transitioning the character goes through in the book is handled quite well. That’s about all I can say without revealing spoilers – and that in the hands of a lesser author, it would have been easy to be delivered in quite a cliche way. In this book everything is a struggle, and you see what Anaiya goes through is earned, and not easily. The plot has a good beat to it, and it feels as though real days pass, and you can see where Anaiya starts to think on what it really means to be al elemental, and what else the resistance could mean, as well as the laws and knowledge she’s followed all of her life, and what other options there could be out there.
Overall, this is well written and engaging. It seems like the author’s first book (and also the first book of the publisher), and overall they’ve done pretty damn well.
Also, for a limited time, the publisher is offering a limited release of a Cocktail Companion Guide, featuring the classic and contemporary cocktails we see in the novel along with exclusive novel excerpts and beautiful watercolour illustrations. To claim, subscribe to their newsletter here.