The Elysium Chronicles #1
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Since the age of three,
sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the
People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds
of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that
everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.
Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their
secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization:
everything she knows is a lie.
Her memories have been altered.
Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.
And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.
with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a
ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy
Renegade begins calmly and serenely, introducing us to the quiet underwater utopia that is the much beloved home of our young protagonist, a girl who spends her days in her private gardens awaiting direction from her mother before continuing on her uncomplicated day. We’re lulled into a false sense of peace and security along with Evie in the first few chapters before the blinders we had no idea we’d donned are brutally ripped from our faces and the curtain of perfection around Elysium drops, exposing the darkness and the horror behind it. A villain emerges in all her horrifying glory, the mask of benevolence previously worn no longer adequate to hide her insidious nature, and we immediately align ourselves with Evie, determined to catalog the atrocities done unto her and others so they won’t be forgotten with the depression of a syringe’s plunger.
Evie is a challenging young woman to get to know, her initial simplistic appearance causing us to wonder how long we can realistically support someone who’s content to flit from one less-than taxing activity to the next. It doesn’t take long for us to fully understand why Evie is the way she is however, and once that moment comes, our opinion of her is instantly altered and our protective instincts flare even as our own helplessness causes us no shortage of stress. Though we come to support Evie, we never truly get a handle on who she is as a person, her mind a playground a single grotesque bully denies anyone else access to by continuously asserting her dominance and control, ensuring Evie is nothing more than a continuous blank slate, wiped clean again and again and again.
Gavin is another character we don’t ever truly learn all that much about, but his hesitant affection for Evie and his genuine concern for her well-being is touching, and we can’t help but root for the pair of them as they attempt to battle their way out of the belly of the beast. Though a declaration of love is fairly quick in coming in terms of the length of time they actually know one another, the relationship itself doesn’t feel as though it develops too fast, with enough small steps taken between them to please the romantic in us who loves the tension-filled moments that precipitate the more intimate verbal and physical gestures.
Overall, Renegade is an exceedingly dark story thanks to a monster who is all the more terrifying given she’s fallen prey to her own lies, seeing goodness and light in the mirror when what’s actually reflected back is nothing more than depraved cruelty. Despite the darkness, we’re treated to a sliver of hope at the end, a solid conclusion to this first installment that certainly leaves room for more without leaving us teetering on the edge of expectation. Hopefully the blank canvas that is Evie will be painted in riotous color in the next book, allowing us to finally see what’s been buried, twisted, and manipulated for so very long.