4 out of 4 stars
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Divergent Chill: Battle of Nesma is a fantasy novel and the first in a series. It can be read as a standalone if necessary, but I would recommend reading further. So often the first book in a series just sets up the scene for the rest, but this was a full treat in itself.
Alden Amos is sent into the sacred forest to despatch Shank, a renegade Rageborne, whose reputation as a child-eater has proven to be true. Man is not meant to enter the sacred forest, so accompanied by a tracker, a knight, an assassin and a priest to bless the journey, the group set off through the poisonous plants, with the threat of being attacked by Divergents at the forefront of their minds. Divergents are female and rumoured to be god-born. They look like children but have superior speed and strength and will think nothing of tearing a human limb from limb and eating them. So when Alden finds a Divergent ensnared in a trap meant for Shank, he is faced with the choice of freeing her or leaving her to die. Some Divergents move passed their feral state due to a calling by the god Sitar, and leave the forest to work in the Empire. Alden decides to free her and take her to the Empire to see if she is one of the chosen ones. Alden is arrested and placed on death row for taking matters into his own hands and removing her from the forest, and the only way the Divergent can save him, is by agreeing to lead a battle and annexe an enemy mining town. So begins an epic tale of friendship, betrayal and brotherhood.
I was absolutely enthralled by this book. It became difficult to move from page to page as I wanted to hurry up and get to the climax, yet I longed to savour it for as long as possible. The idea behind the story ranging from meeting the Divergent to the inevitable climactic battle is gripping and fast-paced. Interspersed with journal entries from the only male-born Divergent, the story tells of elemental users, certain races being treated as lesser beings according to their traditions, and the binding thread through it all; enacting deeds for loyalty. Whether that loyalty is to the Empire, a loved one or even to oneself, sometimes it blinds us and the outcome of our deeds can haunt us for life. You are swept along with the characters as they make difficult choices, rejoice in their successes and mourn their losses. I believed in their characters and personalities-their flaws are shown to all and you feel their emotions just as much in your own heart. Touching on societal caste issues was done in a very clever way and left you thinking deeply about a number of your own ideas and possibly pre-conceived notions. The ending was satisfying-enough to leave you wanting more, but not an in-your-face cliff hanger.
A number of editing mistakes like spelling errors and misplaced words let the book down, but not enough to cause a major distraction.
Apart from the few mistakes I couldn't fault the flow of the book, the plot and character development, and the way that the author brought you into the story and made you part of their world. I would recommend the book for mature young adults and up due to the level of violence. I give the book 4 out of 4 stars and will be eagerly reaching for the next one in the series.
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