To all whom may receive this transmission, I write this from Asteroid-B5670- where I have unfortunately crash landed! It appears I unintentionally flew too close to the border of a alien civilization, and they weren't having any of it! Jeez, you would think they would check to see if I was a marauder ship or not before unloading fire. Well, it looks like I'll be stuck here a while in complete silence... Unless! Yes, while I wait for further assistance, I simply MUST tell you all about the book I just read! Behold, all who listen, Nova's Blade by Will SciFi!
In a world where businesses have replaced the government, criminals run free, and people are packed into near uninhabitable housing, it barely resembles the Earth we know today. But for Nova, that's just life. Unlike her, the only beacon of hope for the majority of the world is The Last Valkyrie, a TV competition where all-female competitors fight to the death for the hand of a wealthy man, a ticket out of their lives of poverty.
But Nova soon learns the awe of the competition is nothing more than a facade when she is kidnapped by the organization behind the tournament and forced to compete. With a bomb implanted in her head programmed to explode if she sends for help, Nova must battle through life-threatening challenges as her fellow kidnapees drop like flies around her. As she climbs the ranks, it becomes strikingly clear Nova can trust no one- not her sister, not her best friend, and especially not Octavian Hyperion, an upper-class man strangely taken to Nova, despite his ties to her father's death. Now, there is only one thing Nova can do- fight for her life and become the next Last Valkyrie.
(CONTENT WARNING - Discussion of violence, gore, and genocide)
Nova's Blade was a novel I was VERY torn on while reading. I really dislike being harsh on books, and while there are many redeeming traits to the book, there are several glaring issues that cannot be ignored. However, please keep in mind taking someone's opinion as your own without even experiencing the material for yourself is a horrible way to live, so take everything with a grain of salt.
I think most casual readers will find the most surface-level distractions are the few grammatical errors I spotted, as well as the long back-and-forth dialogue. However, as you get more into the book, those missteps fade into the background.
What I think Nova's Blade suffers from most is a disease I like to call "Hungergame-ism", an unfortunate condition that has plagued the world of YA dystopia for about ten years. You see, once The Hunger Games came out, it was HUGE, and totally changed the expectation for the genre, unfairly limiting what could be considered "good" YA dystopia. Because of this, any big titles in the genre that came after are essentially copy-pastes of the HG's plot (with minor changes in-between).
This impacts Nova's Blade in a way that managed to disappoint me a little. It seems like the author's understanding of a dystopian world is one "where government is bad," and little else is explored beyond that. There are times in the story where characters will randomly mention a horribly tragedy where people died or the government did something bad, and then never speak of it again. It's like the book wants to constantly remind you that this is dystopia, which I wouldn't mind if it was more natural.
I think an example of this that was executed well was when the government bombs an entire island of natives, wiping out their whole race. Not only does this draw ties from the real world, making the reader face a reality not far from theirs, but we get a reason why this was done beyond "being evil." Themes of "purity" is hinted throughout the book, and while the genocide was done with the excuse of the natives might have harmed Nova, we know the truth, even without it being shoved in our face.
Another thing I find might bother some people is the amount of violence in this book. While most death scenes are brief, I applaud the author for being so creative and detailed with the gore. People's heads explode, people are cut into cubes, people's skulls are bashed in, and much more. Personally, I've read much worse, but I can recognize the amount of death is almost humorously much. The best thing you can do when consuming violent media is to know your limits, and while the amount in Nova's Blade was manageable for me, it might not be for you.
In my opinion, there was a lot of death without impact. In Hunger Games, the kids kill because they're all terrified and are using every skill at their disposal to survive, and every death makes an impact that drives the story forward. While I can't say the same for Nova's Blade, I do feel like it works to make you feel like Nova's situation really is hopeless, like the show-runners truly do not value human life and view everyone below them as disposable.
In the end, it really is Nova's undying humanity that keeps you rooting for her. While some of her competitors go mad and become emotionless killing machines, Nova always maintains at least a bit of hope. Even when she says she has become desensitized to eliminating her competition, we are still shown her reaction after she slays the other girls. Even when the book builds up to Nova and Octavian's romance, perhaps to hint that Nova has become more of a upper-class woman more than her true self, she doesn't forget the pain and suffering both he and his family caused to humanity, and vows to bring revolution through eliminating the bourgeois and all former Valkyries that side with them. Even when she had won everything she needed, she knew that even as a victor, she was no more than a pawn, and knows the people need the suffering to end- not another to add to it.
And that's when the book ends. Nova escapes the capital, and everyone is left to choose sides until she returns. Nova's Blade is an exciting book with huge promise, but holds itself back by trying to fit the mold Hunger Games left behind. The concepts are there, and I'm not saying a gladiator-style dystopia couldn't work, but I think there should be more exploration of what new things it brings to the table. Nova is a strong character with interesting emotions and goals any reader can find themselves in, and sympathize with her journey, and the interesting deaths, weapons, and battles are sure to draw any YA fan in.