I received my copy from Headline Publishing through Nudge and rated it 4.5 stars.
In this, the second book in the Pure trilogy, we meet our protagonists where we left them at the end of the first book. Pressia is with Bradwell for whom she is developing feelings she doesn’t recognise or trust and trying to come to terms with the fact that she’s recently found and lost her mother, discovered that her father may still be alive and the existence of her half-brother, Partridge who is a Pure, from the Dome and the son of Willux, the man who caused the destruction of the world.
Partridge is still living outside the Dome and glad to be spending time close to Lyda, the Pure girl he loves. He is also devastated following the brutal death of his mother and brother; deaths ordered by his father. But his mother left him with something; three vials containing the first step in a cure for the damage done by the detonations. If they can find the next two steps it might be possible to undo the devastation his father has caused, but their changes seem slim.
Partridge’s father wants his son back and is not beyond keeping all of the people outside the Dome hostage to achieve his goal. Willux has plans for his son and nothing or nobody is going to stop him from achieving his goal. Faced with a possible massacre among the Wretches he has come to recognise as different but very worthy humans, Partridge has no choice but to submit to his father’s demands. He has to go back inside and hope that he will be able to fight the battle against his father’s evil plans from there.
Meanwhile Pressia, Bradwell, El Capitan and his brother Helmud leave on a seemingly impossible quest to find the ingredients and formula needed to create the cure. Piecing together clues left behind a long time ago they have to travel far into unknown and dangerous territories with no guarantees that they will achieve their goal or survive.
With the odds stacked against them in a volatile and dangerous world this small group of people is all the hope of survival the world has. And in the middle of violence, loss and danger these youngsters also have to come to terms with new and confusing feelings; emotions that appear to be as likely to hurt them as bring them to happiness.
Allow me to start with a warning before I get to my thoughts on this book. Do yourself a favour; (re)read “Pure” and re-acquaint yourself with the story and the characters before starting this book. It took me quite a while to get everything and everybody back in perspective. But by the time I realised that I should have gone back to the first book before starting “Fuse” I was so far into the book that putting it aside was impossible.
Because that is the sort of story this is; it grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. The way in which this devastated world is described is vivid and all the more heart-breaking for it. It is almost too easy to picture the poor people who were outside the Dome when the detonations came and are now fused to whatever was closed to them at the time; a dolls head where her hand should be for Pressia; birds on Bradwell’s back; Helmud attached to his, brother El Capitan; and all the Mothers with their children permanently fused to their bodies. The destructed landscape, filled with danger and newly formed creatures is just as easy to picture, and this only gets easier when the author introduces recognisable landmarks. Julianne Baggott did a heartbreakingly thorough job of building this world and its inhabitants.
The characters in this book aren’t especially easy to like but given the circumstances that makes perfect sense. In this world the only way to survive is by looking after number one and being suspicious of everything and everyone. Sentimentality is a luxury people living outside the Dome can’t afford and people inside the Dome have given up on a long time ago. But as you get to know Pressia, Partridge, Bradwell and the others better you realise that what at first appeared to be brutal and harsh attitudes are in fact necessary characteristics if they want to have a chance at surviving and succeeding. And in the midst of all this darkness there is room for occasional light and love:
“Now I feel like we weren’t made for each other. We’re making each other – into the people we should become.” (Bradwell to Pressia)
Because ultimately these are just fragile human beings doing the best they can in an impossible situation.
I liked the way in which the author took her time while developing the characters and the story. A picture is built with great attention to detail, using beautiful and vivid words and images. This allows the reader to come to a real understanding of this world and the people that inhabit it. I also appreciate that this book doesn’t end on a massive cliff-hanger. While it is clear that the story is far from over when Fuse ends, things are left at a relatively peaceful place. And since it is going to be hard enough waiting for the third and final book to come out, I can only be grateful that the author didn’t make it any harder than it had to be.
This is a very well written dystopian novel, made all the more brilliant by the fact that the devastation, its cause and its aftermath are all to easy to believe and imagine. The reader should be prepared to be fascinated and horrified in equal measure.