I like Rachel Aaron’s writing – see my reviews of Fortune’s Pawn and Nice Dragons Finish Last – so when I saw her name on this one, I immediately requested it. I had no idea the world was set in a very successful manga series. And frankly, I offer up this nugget of information as a point of interest, because if I hadn’t told you – other than the rather indigestible info-dump right at the beginning, you wouldn’t know.
An original novel, with all-new characters and a new story set in the world of Attack on Titan! Fans of the series and readers alike will enjoy this immersive and engaging experience of the pop culture phenomenon and manga mega-hit.
With the last vestige of the human race threatened by unstoppable carnivorous giants, a brave young woman decides to defy her wealthy family and join the military to fight against humanity’s enemies. But Rosalie Dumarque soon finds out that bloody sword fights with monsters aren’t the only dangers faced by the Wall Rose Garrison. Can she earn the trust of her fellow soldiers, stand up to a corrupt authority, navigate a forbidden romance…and cut her way out of a titan’s throat?
Aaron is accomplished at dropping us into a situation and giving us all the necessary details as we go along, so that rather tedious opening info-dump is out of character. I’m guessing it was a stipulation by the publishers, it certainly feels that way… Once that is out of the way, this one picks up the pace. We are largely in the viewpoint of Rosalie, who has been raised to honour the military tradition of her noble family and is determined to do more than marry and continue the bloodline.
I love the setting of the wall and the steampunk feel to the gizmos that assists the soldiers in the insanely dangerous business of killing the titans. Any other wound the monsters suffer from, they can regenerate – doubtless fuelled by all the human flesh they keep gobbling at any available opportunity.
Rosalie has first to surmount the hurdle of being accepted by her fellow soldiers as she appears in an immaculate dress uniform and far too much luggage, whereas most of her comrades in arms are desperate refugees who watched their friends and family eaten. It makes for a rocky start… I like her idealism and determination to do her duty. It would have been all too easy to make her some heroic, adrenaline-fuelled protagonist who excelled when alongside her poor, commoner companions – and I’m very glad Aaron resisted the urge to do so.
The action scenes are well written, with plenty going on. While I realised early on there would be a romantic thread, it doesn’t impact too much on the gritted struggle to keep the titans at bay. I like Jax, but my favourite supporting characters are Willow and Emmet, who are part of Rosalie’s team. They are a lovely pair of warm-hearted characters with a tragic backstory, who I really cared about.
I had sort of guessed how the climax and denouement would pan out – and I was utterly wrong. It was far more gritty and shocking. The story was wrapped up satisfactorily, but I was left with a lot of questions about the titans, which the book raises but doesn’t remotely answer. I guess that’s okay – it is, after all, the first in the series. Will I be interested in reading more of this world? Absolutely. The world ravaged by ravenous giants makes for page-turning adventures. Recommended for fans of action fantasy with plenty of fighting and a side-order of romance.