I’ll admit, my attention was caught by this gorgeous cover and by the tagline ‘imagine a world where touching was illegal’. Perhaps for obvious reasons this seemed like it might be an interesting read and, despite what it might seem, was a good distraction from our viral pandemic. I hadn’t read any of Kristin Cast’s previous books, but I had heard of them and decided this was a good way to dip into her writing.
Rating: 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Head of Zeus for the review copy and the tour invite, it has not impacted my honest opinion.
Trigger Warnings: sickness, death, fatphobia, emotional abuse, controlling relationship, human experimentation, virus, pandemic, suicide
About the book:
We are The Key.
‘No touching today for a healthy tomorrow.’
Elodie obeys The Key. Elodie obeys the rules. Elodie trusts in the system. At least, Elodie used to…
Aidan is a rebel. Aidan doesn’t do what he’s told. Aidan just wants to be free. Aidan is on his last chance…
After a pandemic wiped out most of the human race, The Key took power. The Key dictates the rules. They govern in order to keep people safe. But as Elodie and Aidan begin to discover there is another side to The Key, they realise not everything is as it seems. Rather than playing protector, The Key are playing God.
What did I think?
The Key to Fear is a strong opener to a new series, a dystopian story that’s a little more familiar than anyone could have expected. I found it to be an interesting read, though admittedly I was expecting it to me mostly focused on the dystopian virus element whereas this book has a strong romance focus. Not a bad thing, by any measure, just not quite what I expected. The premise of The Key to Fear is, in 2020, particularly eerie. Fifty years prior to the book a virus struck the world and the resulting pandemic nearly wiped out humanity. Out of the disaster of the Cerberus virus, the Key rose. A conglomerate focused on controlling the spread of the virus and protecting humanity, the Key outlawed dangerous behaviours and took control, with everything from banning books, choosing relationship matches and identifying career paths to outlawing touch itself.
I found the first half of the book and the shady as hell mystery surrounding the Key, the Key’s behaviour and missing victims super super interesting. It’s rare that worldbuilding wins me over that simply but this was a realistic seeming version of a post pandemic world that never adjusted back to closeness and intimacy. The ongoing, intense fear of the virus was powerful and the technological steps that society has taken to avoid touch. There were moments where Elodie explained adaptions the world had made, like spacing out subway seats that a year ago would have seemed strange to me. Now, well. It was very, very eerie. The banned book aspect was a little strange, there wasn’t much in-text to explain why they were banned, other than the Key generally controlling things. I don’t mind that so much though, as this was the start of a series so there could be more information coming in later books, especially after the way this book ended. There’s a lot more to know about this world, particularly outside of the Zones the book starts in, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Despite not expecting it, I did think the romance was good, though not something I generally look for in a book, and I did like the way that Aiden and Elodie’s relationship was tied into the conflict in the story. It tied into several plot points (that I won’t spoil here) and there were several twists that I didn’t guess. One of them, in hindsight, was so obvious that I felt like an idiot, but it did surprise me very well. The end of the book built up into a complex ending that had my heart in my throat and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in the next book.
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Release date: 5th November 2020