3 out of 4 stars
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Upheaval: The Liberation of Zubare part 1 by Paolo Ruggirello tells the story of a clan of freedom fighters. For generations, the Greca and several other clans have schemed and fought against the Cutthroats for the autonomy of their island. The impoverished farmers on the island are barely harvesting enough to feed themselves and their families after paying the crippling tax mandated by the general[the ruthless leader of the Cutthroats]. An attack on the general's tax collectors leads to a raid on the Greca farm. Bodies dropped after a scuffle between the soldiers and homeowners got out of hand. Some members of the family fled afterwards. Still, the general isn't giving up that easily. Now, the survival of the clan and its mission lies in the hands of Bertucio, the guardian of the forest. But his help comes at a cost.
Paolo melds themes of conflict, love, loss, nature, and magic in this fast-paced story. It was such a breezy read, I wafted through its 242 pages in one sitting. He did a magnificent job building the world for the story. Nature always calls to me, so I appreciate the infusion of greenery and wildlife into the plot. He gave the forest and its denizens a personality and will of their own. As a nature lover, I somewhat envied the intimate relationship Bertucio had with the jungle.
In contrast, I wish he dedicated as much work to develop the characters. I tried, but I just couldn't connect to any of them enough to get invested in their lives. This is the first book in the series, and I expected it to lay a solid foundation on the background of the characters. Admittedly, there are glimpses of their backgrounds here and there, but there wasn't enough substance to imprint them on my mind; I presume their histories would unfurl in subsequent instalments, but I like to form an early attachment to the key actors in a story.
Again, I think it's odd that a nation that is advanced enough to construct buildings with elevators and retracting pillars has no sophisticated combat weapons. Perhaps it’s a supernatural force, but I consider the bond between some characters too fast and unrealistic. Case in point, I didn’t expect Miami to get all chummy with Bertucio so fast after the Aiko situation.
Overall, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. Besides the issues mentioned above, it was a captivating and suspenseful read. Moreover, the editing is neat; I spotted just one error throughout the book. The ending is a cliffhanger, but the story wrapped up nicely.
The book will appeal to fans of adventure and action. It contains a sizeable number of violent scenes, though. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend it to children or sensitive readers.
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