I was attracted by the blurb and fortunately didn’t pay too much attention to the cover, or I would never have picked up this enjoyable science fiction/fantasy mashup.
In post-apocalyptic America, five hundred years in the future, famine, war, and chaos have created a hell on earth. Outside the isolated city of Lost Vegas, violent skirmishes among the Native Americans – who have retaken their ancestral homes – claim lives by day, while ancient predators awakened during the Age of Darkness hunt humans by night. Inside the city, criminals, the impoverished, and the deformed are burned at the stake weekly. Among those ruthless enough to survive is seventeen-year-old Aveline, a street rat skilled in fighting whose father runs the criminal underworld. On the night of her father’s unexpected death, a stranger offers to pay off her father’s debts, if she agrees to become the guardian of Tiana Hanover, the daughter of the most powerful man in Lost Vegas. Aveline’s skills as an assassin may have kept her alive to date – but she’ll need every ounce of ingenuity and grit to keep herself safe once she enters the household of the most powerful man in Lost Vegas…
Ignore the misleading cover – this is no soft-focused lurve story, this is a gritted battle for survival by a gutsy heroine who had me hooked from the first page. Aveline, shocked after her father’s sudden death, has no time to grieve. His enemies are howling for vengeance and are keen to capture and sell her on for what they can get. Ford immediately sucks us into her plight, so despite her violent tendencies, I immediately cared for her. The world is a savage one, which Ford manages to depict with shocking details that nevertheless don’t veer into the gratuitously violent or graphic, which is a balancing trick many modern authors don’t pull off.
While it was clear early on that Aveline and Tiana were going to meet up, after their initial encounter the story started shooting off into all sorts of directions I didn’t see coming. The characterisation of Tiana was also skilfully handled – she could easily been merely annoying and I really enjoyed the fact that Aveline frankly thinks she’s wet so the gradual progression of their relationship is both realistic and fascinating. The antagonists are also satisfyingly horrible – there is a real sense of claustrophobic menace created in the Hanover household that had me turning the pages long after I should have been doing other things.
In fact, that is my main complaint – I flew through this entertaining read far too quickly and the ending was left on a real cliffhanger. That said, I’m far less grumpy than I was when researching this author. She is a veritable writing machine and plans to have the next novella released in mid-October. Am I going to buy it? Oh yes – Aveline is currently free on Amazon UK and all Ford’s books are very reasonably priced, so I’ll definitely be getting the next in the series. I want to know what happens next…
My copy of Aveline was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.