Author: Aimée Carter
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Released: 26th November 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pawn is the first of Aimée Carter's books that I've read and, while there were a number of issues, I know I'll be going back for more. For a genre that has become so popular with authors - and one that is a favourite of mine - this book offers a refreshing take on the dystopian world, alongside some surprising moments and conspicuously absent tropes.
Society is ranked from I to VI, depending on how well they do when they are Tested at age 17. VII is reserved for the ruling family. Kitty is stuck as a III, guaranteeing her a less than mediocre job, with extremely little pay, in a place far from home. Which is why, when offered by Prime Minister Daxton to be a VII, she's quick to agree. But what Daxton doesn't explain to her is the catch. Becoming a VII means her being Masked, a surgical procedure that leaves her looking exactly like Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's dead niece. Which puts her in the unfortunate position of being at the head of a rebellion, one begun by Lila. Unfortunate because Kitty now has to choose: risk death and see the rebellion through, or do as Daxton wants and call it off, ensuring herself a life of luxury and safety.
The concept of a numerically tiered society was one I liked, and it gave Carter's world a decidedly structured feel. It was very clear how fixed a person's place was; you take the test and you receive a rank, but it is not something you can very well lie about or even manipulate. This is a dystopia not overly concerned with technology, even with its presence and the significance of the Masking, but, I would say, more in society itself: people and how they function. I appreciated, too, the fact that rebellion, or at least the widespread idea of it, was already born. From what I've seen, dystopias usually start at the beginning, introducing the world and perhaps one challenging character or a small group who then branch out. It's almost as if Carter has fast-forwarded this process; we have here a huge network of people who look up to Lila. This isn't the only time the author has done so, but we'll come to that in a moment. In doing this, the focus changes slightly from what we might usually expect, and it is nicely done. Saying this, however, it did bother me somewhat. There was something about the way the Hart family worked that had me feeling sceptical. Having the voices of oppression and freedom, undisguised, under one roof, and with a particular hierarchy, made me question the feasibility of such a situation. It may just be me, but I was never immersed enough in the story to lose those niggling doubts.
That leads me nicely to the characters themselves. Again I had a mixed reaction. Kitty was a decent enough character, of course with her frustrating moments, but ultimately stepping up to her new role as Lila Hart and then putting her own effort into Lila's work. I was also see her pleased to stick to Benjy, who we are introduced to as her boyfriend right from the beginning. There is no new relationship, only an established one: once more the fast-forwarding, and once more it works. When Knox comes into the picture, despite a few seemingly close calls, it does not form a triangle. There is also a refreshing lack of secrets between Kitty and Benjy. At the same time I'm not sure how memorable they are, nor can I say I felt as much connection to Kitty as I do to other characters in other books. And I really had my doubts with Celia. For a woman of her position - and you'll know the full extent of that meaning if you've read it - she's not particularly good. She's neither careful nor strategic. Frankly she's quite disappointing. The characters are not predictable (and I mean that in the best way) and they're easy enough to read about at the time, but I'd be hesitant to say they leave a significant impression afterwards.
Pawn turned out to be a mix of ups and downs for me that ended up sort of balancing out. For all its flaws, it is a decent book, and worth picking up if only to see a different take on what is already a well-explored genre. I do wish I could have enjoyed it even more, but the potential is certainly there for the rest of the series.