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Fleen Book Corner: The Divided Earth

There’s this one moment in the third book of the Nameless City series, The Divided Earth by name¹, where Faith Erin Hicks hits a peak; there’s 800 pages of story (more or less) across the three books, and while they all read true and the characters are all believable, this is where she get something so right that it stopped me in my tracks.

The meddling kids (it’s always kids that have to bring the empires back from the brink of war) have succeeded, the city is safe (uh, spoiler alert, but come on … book three of a trilogy? You knew it was happening) and co-protagonist Rat (who could be a completely generic Street Kid Taught To Trust Again in a lesser writer’s hands) realizes that they’ve won, and a friend she thought was gone forever is there and she throws herself into his arms and starts sobbing.

She doesn’t know why, she can’t say why, but the emotion, the relief that it’s all over, the greater relief that she’s alive and victorious and doesn’t have to have the tough exterior for just a moment and it all comes rushing out … it’s a beautiful, true moment of triumph and confusion and Being A Teen all mixed up together, and it’s the most right thing I’ve ever read in a YA story about the youth that save everybody from the war.

The rest of it is excellent, don’t misunderstand me. The sneering villain is far less confident than you’d expect², the hidden betrayers have their own motivations, the plucky comic reliefs can be depended on to both screw up exactly as their nature requires and find a bigger purpose to their actions. These are stock-in-trade elements of YA fiction, but they’re never cliche, and never done in a perfunctory manner. And anything that seems familiar (especially to those that have watched Avatar or The Legend Of Korra) is executed with the highest skill.

The Nameless City feels real and lived-in, almost a character itself. The color palette matches perfectly with the polyglot aesthetics, which are clearly derived from the different looks and feels of the three different contending nations. There’s dirt and dust, there’s new and shiny, there’s conqueror and conquered all brought together with an eye on verisimilitude.

But all of those just sort of fall into the background when Rat hugs her friend and cries because she’s relieved and happy and confused and gets to just be a moody kid for a moment. There’s big changes behind and bigger ones yet to come, but now? Yeah, she earned those tears and Hicks earned our eyeballs.

Fleen thanks :01 Books for the review copy of The Divided Earth, which will be available at bookstores everywhere on 25 September. Take the two weeks between now and then to read (or re-read) The Nameless City and The Stone Heart.

Spam of the day:

Your very own Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Bitches, I’m an EMT. I can get the good stuff any time I want: pure, uncut O2, at 15 liters per minute, at 2200 psi from a rocket bottle if I handle things carelessly. Take your lame-ass battery-powered concentrator and peddle it to somebody that doesn’t know the difference.

¹ A reference to both the continuous warring of the three major nations that ebb and flow through the land and fight over the Nameless City, and the terrible weapon that was once used to sunder the stone of the earth itself, to provide trade access.

² But utterly, utterly convinced not only of the righteousness of his cause, but it’s fundamental selfless and altruistic nature. He really is doing it for the benefit of the people.

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