Author: Sherri L Smith
Published: March 7, 2013
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley
After being socked with a series of devastating hurricanes and overtaken by a virulent illness called the Fever, the inhabitants of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have been abandoned by the rest of the United States. Divided into tribes of blood types, Orleans (the “new” was dropped) has fallen into barbarism and savagery, where the people fight tooth and nail to survive just one more day.
Fen is one of those people. But she has a newborn baby, the child of her dead friend Lydia, on her hands and she swears that this baby will have a better life if she has to break every law of the Outer States and the Delta to do it.
Daniel is from the Outer States, a military scientist trying to cure the Fever, who has snuck into Orleans to gather data for his quest. They run into each other in a blood-hunter’s camp (which is exactly the kind of place it sounds like) and strike a deal--she’ll take him where he needs to go, and when he leaves, he’ll take the baby with him.
When I saw this book on Netgalley, I waffled over whether to request it or not. Another dystopia? Sigh. But I loved Smith’s first book, Flygirl, and finally I decided to give a whirl. I’m so glad I did.
Was it Fen? This tough and uncompromising girl’s quest to get Baby Girl to the Wall and a better life is certainly memorable. Was it Daniel? Though he has a doctorate, he has a lot to learn about life on the other side of the wall, and surprisingly rises to the challenge. Was it the end? I . . . I can’t say anything more about the end, except that while it was devastating, it was perfect.
These are all elements that I loved, but what jumped out at me was the setting, Orleans itself. Many times in dystopias, the physical and cultural surroundings are scary and dark things, utterly wtihout redemptive factors. But Orleans is the kind of place you fall in love with, as much as for its flaws as for its beauties.Yes, it’s scary and dark. Yes, it’s not exactly a place where you’d want to live. But like the real city, it teems with life, energy, and beauty.
One of the most touching moments in the book takes place on All Saint’s Night. Fen and Daniel, hiding out, see a Mardi-Gras-like parade of people from many tribes, tacitly truced for the night. They dance and sing, “Nous sommes ici!” We are here. No matter how far Orleans has fallen, the place and the people are still there.