REVIEW | Subject Twenty One | A.E. Warren | Tomorrow’s Ancestors #1

Del Rey sent me an invite for the blog tour for SUBJECT TWENTY ONE, and I signed up because I love sci-fi and the cover is pretty. Picked it up one evening to read a few chapters and get a feel for the writing and I read the entire thing in two sittings – I only stopped to sleep. I can’t wait to get my hands on THE HIDDEN BASE, and I’m glad I don’t have to wait long to read the sequel.

Rating: 4 stars!

Thanks to Del Rey for the review copy of this book. It has not affected my honest review.

Content Warnings: death during childbirth, imprisonment, discrimination.

About the book:

Elise’s world is forever changed when she is given the opportunity of a lifetime – to work at the Museum of Evolution and be a Companion to the Neanderthal, Subject Twenty-One.

As a Sapien, a member of the lowest order of humans, she and others like her are held responsible for the damages inflicted on the world by previous generations. This job may be Elise’s only chance to escape a stagnating life in an ostracised and impoverished community.

But it doesn’t take long for Elise to realise that, away from the familiarity and safety of her home, her own secrets are much harder to conceal.

And the longer she stays the more she comes to realise that little separates her from the exhibits . . . and a cage of her own.

What did I think?

A.E Warren’s writing is unbelievably compelling and readable. I blazed through most of this book in an evening, forcing myself to stop and sleep, and it was the first thing I reached for the next morning so I could finish it. It’s not especially long, but the pacing is fantastic and I’m glad it wasn’t dragged out any more than it needed. I’m so excited for the sequel, THE HIDDEN BASE, and I’ll be jumping into it as soon as I get my hands on it. The plot is so gripping. I couldn’t predict what was happening, and while the book had some heartbreaking moments, it also had moments that were poignant and hilarious.

The prose is easy to read, and very voicey. Elise’s voice comes through so strongly, and her personality is so distinct and easy to love. She’s the perfect main character, with complicated motivations that made me never quite sure what she would do next. The whole cast was endearing; Samuel, Luca and Kit in particular. They made for such a strong cast, and the relationship between Elise and Kit was so perfect. It developed so naturally, and I loved watching them work through their mistrust and become friends.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a dystopia with such a unique concept. The genetic alterations and Reparations made for a fascinating world. The Sapiens are the ‘lowest’ class of humans with no genetic alterations, and they are expected to pay for the crimes their ancestors committed in the past – driving the world to destruction so that the only safe place to live is one of four bases. Those Reparations mean that the Sapiens live highly restricted lives, even down to what they’re allowed to eat and build their houses from. Their lives are heavily controlled, and they’re never allowed more than a day’s worth of water so they can’t leave the base they’re assigned to. Unlike a lot of dystopia protagonists (in my opinion, at least) Elise is unhappy with her lot in life but she’s not the rebel character I’m used to seeing. Instead she’s endlessly curious. She wants to know more about the world and protect her little brother, to keep her head down and avoid trouble as much as she can, stumbling into things bigger than she could have expected.

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Release Date: 1st July 2021

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