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Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Title: Enclave
Story Arc: Trilogy, Book 1
Publication: April 12, 2011 by Macmillan
Hardcover: 262 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Horror, Zombies, Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy, Adventure
Age Group: Young Adult
Content: Violence, Sexual Assault, Gore, Kissing
Source: Gifted for Christmas | Quote(s): Yes

I was born during the second holocaust.

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.
Zombies are my thing
Zombies, Freaks, Eaters, whatever you want to call them, if they’re undead I dig them. The zombie element of Enclave by Ann Aguirre is ferociously creepy and does incorporate the intended, and expected, anxiety. However, that, surprisingly, was NOT the highlight of the dark world-building Ann has built; the brutal, animalistic, uncompromising atmosphere of the Enclave where the main character, Deuce, resides is what’s especially memorable about Enclave by Ann Aguirre. The sheer grit this girl possesses is bolstered by an apocalyptic mess of bleak and barren wastelands both Topside and below, in which survival is paramount, takes precedence over choice and affection and comfort. Even fear. Because there’s no room to be frightened when there are so many who maintain dependence on the strength of people like Deuce.

The cruel and unbending characteristics of the Enclave itself weeds out the weak to ensure that the strong survive. Some of their practices strike horror into our hearts merely because they are an affront to the humanity that shone within us. The Enclave is run based on a primitive and animalistic dominance and ‘survival of the fittest mentality,’ in which the useless are killed, the greedy and malicious are exiled. But that human element hasn’t completely disappeared either, because these people have room for corruption as well. Public displays of violence and unjust accusations, random framings and murders, banishment into the unknown—all of this to reinforce the rules and to reestablish the deathly consequences of breaking those rules, creating a world more terrifying and grotesque than the ravenous undead. It’s severe and callous, this underground world, where the people below ground scurry like rats across mutinous distances and battle merciless, starving monsters to ensure the survival of the whole.

The darkly atmospheric images perpetuated by the author served as a driving and acute fascination, which outgunned my obsession with zombies and the like, and I was riveted.

Deuce and Fade’s badassery and romance
The oppressive, terrifying world Deuce lives in isn’t the only kickass thing about Enclave by Ann Aguirre. Besides the awesome fact that it’s not only intrinsically immersive, but it’s reasonable, pretty consistent, and adds more depth to the world-building as a whole. However, Deuce and Fade are tantamount to the intriguing world-building in this book. They’re well-trained and uber skilled hunters despite their youth, which is consistent with the things we learn about in Enclave by Ann Aguirre’s world. And they are also super fascinating!

I admire Deuce for obvious reasons, including her Linda Hamilton thing going on—tough fighter and instead of guns she’s got knives and a club to duke it out with the incessant and vicious Freaks outside of the tunnels. However, I wouldn’t say she’s lost touch of her humanity, but, more than anything, has it banked and repressed for the sake of not drawing the suspicious eyes and ears of the Enclave. Her compassions takes second place to duty and respect for the heartless rules she’s abided since she was merely Girl15. She’s worked her way to the top, and has proven repeatedly that she’s not JUST a girl capable of withstanding a lot of pain, but she’s handy to have in a fight against twenty odd frenzied man-eating savages. She’s smart and observant, and I can dig that in a heroine. But, I needed more uncovering of those hardened overlying layers to her personality. I wanted to dig down deeper into the girl as opposed to the warrior. Then, I’ll be able to say I like her too.

Fade, on the other hand, I felt I understood a bit better. Maybe simply because he has a tendency of wearing his emotions more on the surface than he’d like, and that allows me to feel more sympathetic and understanding toward him. He wears so many scars that aren’t solely skin deep. Glimpses into his life helped make him more vulnerable, and that made it easy for me to appreciate the sexy fighter and hunter he is now. When he and Deuce click, it’s after wading through thick globs of suspicion and mutual dislike. After the rumors are dispelled and they’ve been through enough life-threatening situations? It’s mutual admiration and respect that forges the attraction between them, and has them paying closer attention to things deeper than their reputations. They become friends as well as partners, and stick by each other in a way that alludes to a relationship far more in tune and deep and precious than a partnership born of survival.

Irritating love triangles aside, I want more, more, more
Frankly, I would’ve been PERFECTLY happy with reading about Fade and Deuce and their struggles to escape to a more peaceful, less deadened world. I would’ve been fine with hanging back, barely suppressing grins as these two feel each other out a bit more. I didn’t NEED any more characters, and, honestly, I didn’t want any to come and botch everything up. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS. Personally, I could’ve done without the two additions to their tight group, and that would’ve saved me all this stress and anxiety that had nothing to do with potential betrayal and everything to do with the fragile, early stages of the romance.

A LOVE TRIANGLE WAS NOT NECESSARY. Even if it isn’t REALLY a love triangle, it’s still a needless and stressful obstacle between the two main characters that riddles me with fear and anxiety in a way I hadn’t experienced before with the Freak attacks. I loathed that Ann Aguirre left that bit hanging in the balance by the end of her book. Yet, despite it’s openness, I was pleased that it wasn’t a cliffhanger. Enclave by Ann Aguirre can easily stand on it’s own, unless you’re as invested in the romance as I am.

Still, by the end, I was reaching for air, because I didn’t own Outpost. I was crushed. I hate that I’ll have to wait for the sequel, especially when I wasn’t particularly excited about reading this one. Now, I can’t imagine my year without having read Enclave by Ann Aguirre!
"What happened to your last partner?"
Fade smiled. "He wasn't as good as Silk claimed."
"You want to find out" I lifted my brow in a challenge.
The space had cleared of brats, so he shrugged and took position in the center. "Show me what you've got."
It was a clever tactic, but I wasn't that green. The offensive fighter lost the chance to assess his opponent's style. I shook y head at him and curled my fingers. He almost smiled; I saw it start in his eyes, but he focused on the fight.
We circled a few times.
He lashed out with a quick left, followed by a right cross. I blocked one but not the other; kind of him not to use his full strength. Still, the blow rocked me. I used the new angle to sink a fist into his ribs and spin away. He wasn't expecting me to recover so fast, I thought.
Our sparring gathered an audience. I tried to ignore them, as I wanted to make a good showing. I went for his leg but he leaped and I recovered in a clumsy stumble while he pressed forward. When he swept, I didn't slide away in time and he took me down smoothly. I tried to roll out of the lock, but he had me. I glared up at him, but he held me until I tapped.
Fade offered me a hand up. "Not bad. You lasted a couple of minutes.
With a grin, I took it. I refused to make the excuse that my arms were sore. He could see that for himself. "You got lucky today. I'd like a rematch." (16-17)
Rating: Perfect Bed Partner

Although it had everything I crave in a YA dystopian post-apocalyptic, not excluding the paranormal sci-fi-ish twist to it with the Freaks, I still was unsure of how I would approach the book and how satisfied I would come out of it. What I found, however, once I was done, was that I was ridiculously impressed by the enthralling, immersive world-building and invested into the subtle, slow-burn romance between two characters I admire greatly. I am panting for the sequel, Outpost, and you will probably find me shamelessly begging friends on Twitter to lend me their ARCs of the highly anticipated sequel!

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8 comments:

Ann Aguirre said...

A friend pointed me here. Thanks for the lovely review! I'm running an Outpost arc contest this week. :)

Shane @ Itching for Books said...

I've been meaning to read this series. great review!

Isabelle @ WakeUpat7 said...

Yay! Zombie books! I've been wanted to read one lately, and after I discovers that "This is Not a Test" is more contemporary than zombie, I'd been looking for one.

Sam @ Realm of Fiction said...

Great review, Asher! I'm glad this turned out to be a good read for you, especially as you weren't sure of how you would react to it. Like you, I hope Outpost will let us dig deeper into Deuce's character. I loved it otherwise! The world-building, the romance... I really liked it all. :)

Liz @ Planet Print said...

I loved this one! Deuce was so awesome, as was the setting. I agree the love triangle was unnecessary, but I still enjoyed the romance overall (hoping for more in book two!). Fab review :).

Mindful Musings said...

Love triangle? Not again! Grr...Lol. I'm still determined to read this series though. It sounds like it's worth it despite that little irksome detail, and I've heard SO many good things!

Krystianna Straley said...

I'm very excited to read Enclave. I've heard great things about it, plus, it has zombies!! Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the review!

Sarah said...

Holy CRAPAMOLE! ASHER. ADGFAJHDFA. THIS SOUNDS ESSING AMAZING. LIKE... OMG I'M FREAKING F@#% OUT AMAZING.

Add to that that I swear this is one of the best reviews you've ever written... which is saying something, because I swear every review you write gets better than the last. AMAZING, lovely! ♥