by Wendy S. Russo
Release Date: January 15th, 2013
2013 Crescent Moon Press
Ebook Edition; 295 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Dystopian
Source: Review copy from author / Kathy
4 / 5 Stars
Matty Ducayn has never fit in on The Hill, an ordered place seriously
lacking a sense of humor. After his school’s headmaster expels him for a
small act of mischief, Matty’s future looks grim until King Hadrian
comes to his rescue with a challenge: answer a question for a master’s
More than a second chance, this means freedom. Masters
can choose where they work, a rarity among Regents, and the question is
What was January Black?
It’s a ship. Everyone
knows that. Hadrian rejects that answer, though, and Matty becomes
compelled by curiosity and pride to solve the puzzle. When his search
for an answer turns up long-buried state secrets, Matty’s journey
becomes a collision course with a deadly royal decree. He's been set up
to fail, which forces him to choose. Run for his life with the challenge
lost...or call the king’s bluff.
January Black is one of those pleasant surprises whereby I had little expectations going into this novel, and came out quite pleasantly surprised and delighted by what I had just read. First of all, to discover a dystopian novel within all the various layers of this story was quite interesting and fascinating, and not only that, but to have a dystopian novel that featured more of a life journey rather than a completely corrupt government that one had to fight against was rather nice and completely unexpected.
Matty is a young man sought out by the king to discover the answer to the question, "What was January Black?" As he searches for the answer to what he discovers is a rather difficult question, he discovers some secrets about his people and his government that had been kept hidden from everyone for centuries. As he delves further into the truth, and more revelations come into his hands, he is left with the rather large decision of deciding what to do with the information he has found. What I really enjoyed about Matty's journey was that it was not only a search for the truth about his people, but it was also his journey into who and what he was. Matty was forced to learn some startling truths about himself and those around him, and the reader went along on Matty's journey as he grew up and matured and learned to open his eyes to how things really functioned in the world.
Matty's girlfriend, Iris, is another character whom I enjoyed very much. I liked how their relationship progressed and found it to be rather sweet. There were none of the dramatic scenes that are often prevalent in other novels, but there were two people who liked each other and the reader got to see how the relationship developed over the course of a couple of years. Naturally, the two of them argued over certain research that Matty was doing as Iris was afraid for him when he delved too deeply, thinking he was going to get himself arrested, but other than that, it was sweet and nice. At the same time, as some of the scenes will show, Iris is definitely not a push-over, and I rather liked that too. I think she was more aware of how things functioned politically and had her eyes more open to what was really happening in their society than Matty did; she didn't live in as big of a bubble as did Matty.
January Black is one of those novels that I enjoyed quite a bit and would recommend to anyone interested in a different flavour of dystopian. There are some clear messages in this novel that relate to our own society today and I found myself comparing them quite a bit. Themes about sacrificing values and morals and liberties in pursuit of certain ideals of peace; how many laws do we have to put in place in order to have a functioning society? Avoiding the truth in order to pretend that we live in a peaceful society, controlled by the media and the government, history expunged from the curriculum to prevent ideas from being passed to the next generation. It certainly gives the reader a lot of food for thought, all the while giving you an interesting story that manages to blend history, civics, politics, and social discourse into one neat package.