Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book review: Fuse (Pure #2) by Julianna Baggott

This is the second book in the Pure trilogy, so understand that this review and the following summary from Goodreads will have spoilers:

"We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.

To be a Pure is to be perfect, untouched by Detonations that scarred the earth and sheltered inside the paradise that is the Dome. But Partridge escaped to the outside world, where Wretches struggle to survive amid smoke and ash. Now, at the command of Partridge’s father, the Dome is unleashing nightmare after nightmare upon the Wretches in an effort to get him back.

At Partridge’s side is a small band of those united against the Dome: Lyda, the warrior; Bradwell, the revolutionary; El Capitan, the guard; and Pressia, the young woman whose mysterious past ties her to Partridge in way she never could have imagined. Long ago a plan was hatched that could mean the earth’s ultimate doom. Now only Partridge and Pressia can set things right.

To save millions of innocent lives, Partridge must risk his own by returning to the Dome and facing his most terrifying challenge. And Pressia, armed only with a mysterious Black Box, containing a set of cryptic clues, must travel to the very ends of the earth, to a place where no map can guide her. If they succeed, the world will be saved. But should they fail, humankind will pay a terrible price..."

This may be a rare example of the YA trilogy where I liked either of the sequels better than the first. So often, it's the first that really grabs the imagination, but the second and third books in the series feel rushed and underwhelming. Since in the case of Pure I was underwhelmed by the opening novel, it was refreshing for Fuse to raise the stakes by moving the plot more quickly and placing the characters in situations that test their integrity, composure, and loyalty.

I loved the progression of the Lyda character from Pure to Fuse. She started out not having much direction and seemed to function basically as the unfortunate doormat that Partridge wiped his feet on, on his way outside of the Dome. Once she herself leaves the Dome, you expect her to flounder, but she immediately takes to the non-sanitized environment and comes into her own. She loves Partridge, but she doesn't sacrifice any part of her new empowerment for him or tether herself to him. She becomes much more self-possessed and in charge of her emotions and directions than even Pressia, who spends much of Fuse wrestling with her feelings for Bradwell. For her part, Pressia is less of a pawn here, too. She even gets the opportunity to do her own research and problem-solving, and proves to be much better suited to that than to physical combat or Survivorman-type scenarios. I still think the boys are a little underdeveloped, particularly Bradwell and El Capitan. Baggott is wrestling with several POV/main characters here, and she may have stretched herself a little thin, preferring to give the meat of characterization to Pressia, Partridge, and Lyda. Bradwell is the most disadvantaged since he doesn't have his own POV chapters and we only see him through others' eyes, but considering he's the main love interest, I'd love to know a little more about him other than that he's tough and kinda revenge-motivated. (That's not LITERALLY it, but he mostly boils down to that.)

Fuse saw Partridge enter a new stage of his development as well. Whereas before he was straightforward and guileless, he's now been asked to deceive and perform morally objectionable tasks in the name of The People. He thought what he knew about Dome leadership was bad before, but it's not until he finds out how deep the rabbit hole goes that he agrees to be a part of the plan. It's something he obviously struggles with, not only on the moral level that any human would, but because he can't help but be concerned that he will be transformed into the same kind of liar that he's fighting against.

Overall, Fuse got me interested in what the conclusion of this series would be. I'm in the middle of Burn, the final volume now, so I'll be reporting on that shortly.

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