Inside the walled city-state of Arel, Noni has just survived her last death-defying test to become one of society’s elite warriors. Now an arbiter, she’s stationed under the watchful eye of a seasoned commander to patrol Arel’s most dangerous, unruly sector. Life here is brutal, even for those tasked with keeping the peace; while Noni hands out severe punishments for those who disrupt and dissent, her own insubordination and missteps are met with extreme violence from her superiors. As Noni learns more about Arel’s society for the first time, she finds herself beginning to question everything she thought she knew about the world she’s sworn to protect. Torn between her training and her confused emotions, Noni must decide which path is the right one.
ENCHAINED builds a post-apocalyptic dystopian society that’s rife with casual violence and bloodshed. It’s a cruel world, maybe at times too visceral to tolerate when its most innocent residents become victims. The plot moves at a near break-neck pace to the point of exhaustion, with fight scenes, chases, and extreme punishments lurking in almost every chapter. Though Noni’s experiences are well-detailed and the prose is easy to get into, her endless torrent of bruises, beatings, and injuries feels over-the-top, and she rarely gets a break from the abuse put on her poor body. At times the plot wanders too much, but Noni’s journey of discovery and ultimately her questioning Arel’s authoritarian class system is woven effectively throughout. Her budding friendship with a plebeian slave—forbidden and the biggest risk she’s taken yet—creates the most compelling source of conflict in the novel.
A lot of the darker elements in ENCHAINED are a patchwork of many other dystopian tales, but Noni’s perspective as law enforcement does add something a little different to the narrative. She’s at turns merciless and robotic, a product of lifelong training; once she begins to find her humanity, the story starts to take shape. However, the commentary on a racial class system—in Arel, the noble class including the arbiters are dark-skinned, while the slaves are light-skinned—never really works. It feels contrived and unnecessary, lacking a genuine voice and a nuanced approach. ENCHAINED ends on a rather abrupt cliffhanger, which leaves a lot of room for the next intense book in this new series.
ENCHAINED brings an interesting entry into the genre, with a compelling protagonist whose journey is to discover her own sense of humanity.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader