Monday, September 29, 2014

#FRC2014 - Rebels by Jill Williamson



The Safe Lands have long kept the true meaning of Liberation secret from their people. But after being sentenced to Liberation themselves, Mason and Omar soon discover the truth. 
Levi watched his brothers’ public sentencing and tries to hold out hope they are still alive, He is forced to focus his attention elsewhere, however, when his new wife, Jemma, is captured and made the Safe Lands’ newest Queen. His only choice to save Jemma may be to take up Omar’s old role of undercover vigilante, leading the rebels in their quest to overthrow the government. But will Levi’s new role be enough?

Meanwhile, Jemma’s sister, Shaylinn, is ready to give birth to the “Safe Lands’” children … but not even Ciddah is sure they can be delivered safely in the midst of a rebellion. And Mason must face the fact Omar’s illness could be fatal.

If they can all unite their efforts, together they may be able to expose the Safe Lands’ lies to the people. But if they fail, they will all surely die.



Unlike many of Williamson's readers, Rebels introduced me to a new author. Rebels is the final installment in The Safe Lands trilogy. As a new reader to the series, the 'Safe Lands' did not seem very safe to me at all. But I'm sure most of the people who did not live in the Highlands would agree with me. There was kind of a Logan's Run feel, but here the older citizens of the society are 'liberated' and very few people know what occurs during or after liberation. Many assume it is death. No one has ever returned from liberation - until now.

There is a prevalent illness in the Safe Lands, called the 'thin plague'. One of the side effects is that babies are unable to be conceived naturally and artificial insemination is the order of the day, whether or not the surrogates are willing. When they no longer have enough women able to carry children, they go outside the Safe Lands borders to kidnap the women they need.

I knew going in that this was a dystopian novel. I have nothing against the genre, but have seen enough and see enough 'real life' to make me sufficiently pessimistic about human nature. So I tend to read a lighter fare.

Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised by Rebels. Yes, there was a lot of "how can people do that to each other", but there was also a lot of hope. There are still relationships, people still have babies, people still get surprised by other people (for good or bad). Many, many story threads are expertly woven together to form a consistent picture and story.

The only thing that surprised me more was seeing Rebels listed on GoodReads as (also in Christian fiction). There are some Biblical references and kerfuffles with the 'Kindred', a group of people who live in a group of underground houses to keep themselves safe from the Safe Landers - and who are a conservative people. Many don't want outside influences disturbing their way of life. The upshot is the book does not thump you on the head with religion.

Reading Rebels also made me glad my younger son has a keen interest in the 'prepper' shows.

Rebels engages readers of many levels. I worried over Mason and Omar's safety as they settled into their new lives in the Lowlands. They were both under the standard liberation age of 40, but they were 'strikers', or people who had committed infractions against the Safe Lands, so they were liberated early. I struggled with Shaylinn as she faced having twins early in the underground housing. I gave hearty thumbs up to Tova (the Kindred leader's wife) who got past her distrust of the outsiders for the sake of helping Shaylinn deliver her twins. And so many others. Rebels is a sweeping story and a rambunctious ride. It's also a darned good answer to the question "what should I read next?"



Jill Williamson is weird, which is probably why she writes science fiction and fantasy novels for teenagers. She grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a lot of mosquitoes. Thankfully it was the land of the midnight sun, and she could stay up and read by the summer daylight that wouldn’t go away. But the winter months left little to do but daydream. Both hobbies set her up to be a writer. Her debut novel, a medieval fantasy called By Darkness Hid, won an EPIC Award, a Christy Award, and was named a Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novel of 2009 by VOYA magazine. Jill has since published twelve books. Jill loves working with teenagers and encouraging them to respect their dreams. She speaks and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. 


(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of Rebels from the author and publisher via the Book Sparks' Fall Reading Challenge 2014 in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

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