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Review - The Drowned Cities

Monday, June 18, 2012
The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker #2)
by Paolo Bacigalupi

Rating: Keeper
Publication: May 1, 2012
Pages: 437
Author: Website  | Facebook | Twitter
Publisher: Poppy
Buy it: AmazonB&N | Book Depository
Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.

In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.

I've been looking forward to this book since reading Ship Breaker last year, after which I had high expectations for this book. Paolo Bacigalupi delivers. As with Ship Breaker, the writing is descriptive and action-packed without breaking the flow, and Bacigalupi once again tackles the dark and gritty without reserve. His books aren't meant for the soft of heart, and he won't coddle you.

The characters are complex and flawed, and each of them are fighting with their own demons that haunt them. Mahlia lost hand to a group called the Army of God, and Mouse's parents died in the war. Their attempt at finding a better life for themselves becomes complicated when they stumble upon Tool, a human that has been genetically advanced to be the perfect soldier. A recurring character from the first book, Tool is a central character to the story as it explores what it means to be human.

A major theme in this book is the impact of war, especially with children as seen through Mahlia and Mouse and the teen soldiers, and it is done in a disturbingly realistic manner. Once again, Bacigalupi explores the concept of humanity. In a war-torn area, humans transform and do things they would never have thought it possible of themselves, and morality takes on another meaning. The characters of The Drowned Cities belong to a dangerous world, and the impact of living in such a world becomes apparent through them as they grow and change over the course of the novel.

This is a dark, dark book with extreme violence and exploration of the darker side of the human psyche. There is cursing and drug use. With its lengthy word count and heavy conter, The Drowned Cities is not a book for light reading. At the same time, it is a book for keeps and one that I will be recommending for older YA readers. There are many amazing YA dystopians coming out this year, but I will remember this one the best for the picture of humanity it portrays.

Note: This can be read and understood without reading Ship Breaker, if you so desire. I still recommend reading Ship Breaker. It's genius.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.
2 comments on "Review - The Drowned Cities"
  1. OH MY WOW. *adds Ship Breaker to my TBR list* I can't believe I've never heard of this series when I'm so in love with dystopian books -- but what I love most is how this book sounds unlike any other dystopian book I've read! The darkness of it, the action, the complexity of the characters... It all sounds so captivating!

    Amazing review, Kris! Hearing that this is the best of the genre is making me so excited! :) <3

    1. It is a whole different kind of dystopian, which makes it so compelling and memorable. I love the darkness and complexity. Hope you enjoy!


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