Friday, March 21, 2014

Review: Pawn - Aimee Carter

Pawn by Aimee Carter
Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion #1
Genre: YA, dystopian
Published on November 26, 2013
Published by Harlequin Teen
Pages: 343
Read From: 3.11.14 - 3.12.14

You can be a VII if you give up everything. 
For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked - surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 
There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed. . . .and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose - and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Maybe this is really stupid of me, but I actually didn't notice that there is a human eye behind the weird little grid thingy in the middle of the cover, until I spent a good few minutes studying it. I don't dislike the cover art, but I don't really like it, either. It doesn't do anything for me.

Characters: Kitty wasn't necessarily a bad protagonist, but I certainly didn't read the book for her. What is it with all of these female protagonists who get a chance to overthrow a dictatorship and they don't want to do it? I totally understood Kitty's just wanting to live a normal life, but guess what, girl - that's not an option. You are now in a position where it's either die or fight, and you had bloody well choose to fight. It took her until the end of the book the stop pining after Benjy and wishing for a regular life without doing anything to actually achieve it. I understood her not trusting Celia, but really, Kitty, you think the Prime Minister is just going to let you live after everything? Protagonists who refuse to join the fight, when there is clearly no other choice, just annoy me. Kitty is one of the lesser annoying ones because she doesn't whine, but I dismissed her almost the moment it became clear that she would once again be a reluctant rebel figurehead. I liked Knox well enough. He was a competent and sensible rebel leader, who did what needed to be done - all while showing genuine concern and patience for Kitty. The guy should be given a medal. I never attached to Benjy; I just wanted him gone. He was the reason Kitty wouldn't commit to any act of rebellion, and I desperately wanted her ties broken so she would finally just do something. As for villains, they were pretty pathetic. As soon as it became clear that Prime Minister Daxton was mostly following dear Mumsy's orders, he was no longer threatening. Villains should not be under the thumb of their mother. That's just . . . embarrassing.

The Romance: This first book in a trilogy doesn't have a love triangle, and I'm actually not altogether certain that there ever will be one. Without giving away spoilers, there's something that kind of prevents Knox from being involved with Kitty (no, he's not gay). Kitty and Benjy are a couple, and no, I didn't care. When Kitty takes Lila's place, she also has to become Knox's betrothed, as he and Lila were engaged. She notices Knox, and even has feeling when he kisses her a few times, but overall . . . . I just don't really feel like there's going to be a love triangle between Benjy, Kitty, and Knox. The romance in Pawn could have been a lot worse, though certainly when Benjy shows up in the picture again, he gets a little touchy towards Knox. Roll eyes. You guys are on the brink of an all-out rebellion, and you're seriously going to do this now?

Plot: As usual, something has happened to cause the American government to collapse and a dictatorship has taken over. It started out well-intentioned at first, but has now gotten a little carried away. In this futuristic America, society operates on a caste system, and everything is - more or less - controlled. Kids remain free of a caste until they reach the age of sixteen, when they are required to take a test that will determine how best they can serve society. Once they're branded with their caste number, there is no second chance. Because Kitty can't read very well, she scores a low III, forever deemed not intelligent enough to serve her nation as anything more than menial labor. Determined to escape such a fate, Kitty joins a brothel (because that's so much better than working in sewers!), where government officials take notice of her unusual colored eyes. Before she knows it, she's given a choice: live out her days as a III-branded whore or become a VII while impersonating the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. For Kitty, it isn't much of a choice. She's surgically made to look exactly like Lila and taught her mannerisms and behavior. But there's a lot more to Lila than Kitty knows. She was adored by the people of the nation for a reason; Lila spoke of improving society, breaking down the caste system. Suddenly Kitty is faced with another choice: be the pawn of the Prime Minister and destroy all of Lila's hard work, or join the rebel game and risk not only her own life, but that of her loved ones as well. World building first: Yes, I immediately thought of Kiera Cass' The Selection trilogy as soon as a numbered caste system was mentioned. For the most part, though, the similarities stop there. This totalitarian America is interesting and better thought out than some. Elsewhere was downright creepy and people born into a higher caste not having to take the mandatory test fit in very well. Of course the elite don't have to do what everyone else does. As for plot, it was . . . a little slow. It's a big secret to Kitty that Lila was plotting rebellion and that maybe Knox and Celia want her to continue Lila's work, but none of that will come as a surprise to any Reader. The book practically shouts all of its secrets from the beginning (except one). So Kitty comes across as a little dense. Knox and Celia couldn't look and act more rebellious if they tried. But the plot isn't spent with Kitty mostly being pampered, primped, and lazing about the estate. There's some skirmishes, sneaking around, eavesdropping, and the like. In fact, Kitty is treated mostly like a prisoner.

Believability: No, it is not a totally believable regime. I also have a hard time accepting that a society which can do such drastic plastic and bone surgery has no successful way of changing a person's eye color. But I suppose it didn't fit into the story, since that's the only reason Kitty was chosen to impersonate Lila. Kitty talks a lot about executions and penalties, and we do see several deaths. But not nearly enough - at least, execution wise. People aren't allowed to have more than one kid, but if they do, they're only fined. Seriously? The government doesn't force an abortion? And if you are born into a caste, you won't necessarily stay in it for the rest of your life. At sixteen, you have one opportunity to leave it. What a fair caste system! People aren't condemned at birth to their lot in life! That's so generous! No, seriously, it is for a caste system. I mean, most - actually, all - give you no opportunity to leave. If you're born a "II" you stay a II.

Writing Style: First person, past tense.Yes, the past tense surprised me. No, the writing style did nothing for me. It was very modern.

Content: 2 s-words.

Conclusion: After a long while a countless demonstrations that she won't be allowed to live after the Prime Minister is done with her, Kitty finally buckles down and starts doing stuff to help the rebellion. About time! Pawn is not a bad book. It's relatively entertaining, and it has a rather exciting conclusion that had a few unexpected twists. Kitty isn't a horrible protagonist - I actually, in some ways, tolerated her better than Katniss. Knox is awesome, there is no love triangle (yet, and I hope there never shall be), and the dictatorship has some believably creepy elements. However, Knox is about the only fully likable character, we have yet another reluctant protagonist, and Prime Minister Daxton is firmly under Mumsy's thumb.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, sixteen-and-up, great for dystopian fans.


  1. I'm not sure whether I'll be giving this book a second go, but I am curious: what's preventing the love triangle/Knox being involved with Kitty?

    And yes, Kitty was... less than the protagonist I hoped for. It really is a shame. Side characters that could be so much and a rebellion that could be interesting. Oh well. C'est la vie, right?

    1. I wouldn't bother giving it a second chance. Like I said, I'm going to read the rest of the series, and if it gets better, I'll let you know. SPOILER ALERT! So Lila? She's actually alive and in hiding, and Knox genuinely likes her (don't know why; she's a brat). So unless something happens to make him change his mind about who to like - which is possible - I don't see him getting involved with Kitty. SPOILER ALERT DONE.

      I just wish someone would write a dystopian novel with a female protagonist who took up the rebel cause with real zeal and fought the bloody government. Male protagonists do it - why can't the female ones do it, too? Why do they have to be emotional wrecks who just want a normal life, but can't realize that a normal life isn't an option? Grrr.


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