The world has ruined itself. Wars, corruption, revolution. In order to protect humanity from further imploding 10 Domiciles are created to house those who survived the revolution. The Elders creating these to ensure conformity, uniformity and compliance for the greater good. Our story takes us to the sixth of these domiciles. So as not to judge or feel hate based on ethnicity all body parts are covered in a black uniform and all faces in a white mask, decorated to denote standing and occupation. All residents of the domicile are assigned a number at birth, never a name, and a corresponding number assigned to a member of the opposite sex seals your future as pre-determined by the Elders.
Focusing on Q347B (B because she is female) she is as rebellious as the strict laws allow, spending time with B116A, known to her as B (who by fate of a non matching number is not to be her intended) is a friendship which is not unnoticed by the powers that be. Notwithstanding that, the Elders in their infinite wisdom continue with the birth assigned matches and Ripening ceremony, where the friends are ripped apart and forced into the arms of those they care not for. Paired with the imposing Q347A, a strict and ardent follower of the domicile laws is soon seen to be a match made to quell her rebellious ways and to ensure obedience to the laws no matter the cost. The punishment for rebellion has only one outcome, the Muerte, where the law breakers go to die.
Can Q and B continue with their relationship unseen? Is there truth to the rumours of revolution? Can Q ever hope to lead a happy life....
Well, what can I say! I found this book intriguing, emotive and with many unique elements. I was instantly drawn in by the intelligent writing style and captivating characters. There are elements of the story that are written in an almost real time way which added to the need to get ever more quickly to the next page. The first part, which dealt with the Ripening ceremony was very much in this style, which really added to the impending sense of trepidation and despair felt by Q. The latter chapters are more spaced out, although still covering a relatively short time frame, following the mundane quality of life forced upon her by her match and the horrifying consequences of her continued attempts to simply be herself. The scale of the domestic violence suffered is heartbreaking and sickening, on more than one occasion I wanted to cry for Q. It's not all doom though, there are some really uplifting moments when Q is able to teach for the first time and find stolen time with B. There can only be one outcome though when a plan by the Elders fails in it's endeavours and we are left firmly in cliffhanger territory.
There are in my view, some clear comparisons with other books in the genre, I felt elements of the Handmaids Tale and also shades of Katniss (especially with the salute) but as I said at the start there are far more unique elements to this story which more than balance it out and keep it it's own. There were times when the numbering system became confusing (and there were a couple of time where I eventually worked out that was down to typo's) but errors were few and the book well edited.
All in all, a really thought provoking and at times intense read which I really enjoyed. I have signed up to receive a review copy of book 2 the Vrai Domicile, when it comes out later this month, So I am glad I wont have to wait too long to get an answer to that cliffy!!