ARC Review: The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Unquiet
author: Mikaela Everett
pages: 464
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-0062381279
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: For fans of Cassandra Rose Clarke, Patrick Ness, and other beautiful, atmospheric futuristic stories.  Readers looking for something older and more thoughtful.
For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she's beginning to suspect she is not a good person. Fans of eerily futuristic and beautifully crafted stories such as Never Let Me Go, Orphan Black, and Fringe will find themselves haunted by this unsettling debut.

The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist. They—and their whole planet—are slowly disappearing. Lira has been trained mercilessly since childhood to learn everything she can about her duplicate, to be a ruthless sleeper-assassin who kills that other Lirael and steps seamlessly into her life.

An intricate, literary stand-alone from an astonishing new voice, The Unquiet takes us deep inside the psyche of a strong teenage heroine struggling with what she has been raised to be and who she really is.

in short

I'd forgotten about The Unquiet when it arrived in my mailbox.  I won't forget again.  It's a rare and sure to be divisive book.  The plot is somewhat nonlinear.  Much of the past is couched in memory, rather than experienced.  Many scenes are viewed from a distance.  But its power comes from its starkly beautiful writing and the rawness of its characters.  The world of The Unquiet is brutal and absurd, a world where there are two Earths, each with a copy of the same people.  But one Earth is dying.  Lira is a Sleeper, trained from toddlerhood to kill and replace her alternate--and eventually overthrow the second Earth and save her people from their dying planet.  She wants so badly to be the perfect psychopath, but she never counted on family or friendship.  She never counted on love.  It's a flawed book, to be sure, somewhat jerky in the pacing and melodramatic.  Yet, it captured my spirit in a way few books do, and left me with a lingering thoughtfulness and melancholy.  Flaws aside, it's a biting indictment of humanity that bares all the joys and scars alike.  Dystopia has rarely been so powerful.  

in depth

in this lyrical science fiction,
The writing in The Unquiet is perhaps its greatest strength.  It reminded me quite quickly of The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, a lush science-fiction written for an older audience.  Everett has a flair for the dramatic, in the way of drama and not melodrama.  Her writing has a grave and dreamlike quality to it.  There's something languid, something profound in the simplest of phrases.  It's not flowery.  The language is relatively simple, the dialogue sharp.  There is little in the way of slang.  The plot jumps back and forth between the present and flashbacks, told in a storyteller way that distances you from the past.  The result is something old-fashioned and futuristic, timeless and placeless.  It sets up an atmosphere of ending and tension that carries through the dark plot.  

children are trained to kill, spy, and invade.
Couched in this writing, the tale becomes something beautiful and tragic rather than fodder for an action-adventure movie.  It begins with Lira, introducing us to the cottages.  Her cottage, at least.  It's a small commune of children and young teenagers watched over by Madame, a brutal and harsh mistress.  These children were brought here, to the second Earth, from a dying first Earth.  They spend their days watching their second Earth alternates on camera.  They train to fight and slay.  They are honed into weapons, as sharp and pitiless.  Friendships are purposefully dismantled.  Weakness is stamped out.  It's from this cold and brutish beginning that Lira now awaits her final test.  If she passes, she'll go out into the world, kill her alternate, and take on her alternate's life.  She'll become a Sleeper.  

but given freedom, even the perfect soldiers
It's the perfect plan, seemingly, but it begins roughly.  Lira is sent into the world to replace her double, who lives with grandparents and sister in an orchard.  She's a dead girl, now, haunted by the memories of her cottage life.  Slipping into the other-Lira's life isn't as easy as it should be.  Lira can't fit into her double's spaces.  She feels wrong.  She struggles against attachment to this new family.  Struggles to remain a soldier, pitiless and married to protocol.  She finds comfort in another group of sleepers who meet secretly at an old cabin and live out the teenage fantasies they were never allowed.  It's a bit of a slow beginning, but I enjoyed watching Lira attempt to fit herself into this world.  There's something heart-wrenching about it.  

may find their humanity painfully revived,
So much of the first half of the book involves putting the pieces into place.  Many will find it slow and dull, I'm sure, but I took great pleasure in observing Lira's transformation.  It becomes quickly clear that she's increasingly uncertain of herself.  She tries to hard to be callous and cold.  To be forged steel without a heart.  Everett sets up this moral dilemma on a grand scope.  Does Lira obey the commands of the first Earth, killing and starting an invasion, a war?  Or does she protect the second Earth, whose inhabitants did nothing more than survive?  The increasing tension of the beginning gives way to the chaos of the later plot, an eruptive sort of thriller that certainly makes up for a slow start.  But always there's this philosophical question hanging in the midst.  Everett doesn't give into the temptation to make this a gory war drama.  

and the cost of victory too great.
Instead, it's so much about relationships.  About Lira's relationship with the first Earth commanders, who want her loyalty.  Her relationship with Da and Gigi, her new grandparents, whom she finds herself caring for.  With her new sister, Cecily, whose brightness and freely given love startles Lira into becoming something more than a soldier.  With Jack, the dying writer who challenges her blind loyalty.  With Gray, the dark and quiet boy who awakens some of her most hidden emotions.  Each character is expertly crafted and believable.  You could almost imagine this into a Ray Bradbury tale, a drama of humanity that just happens to take place in another world.  It's an affecting story that left me feeling bittersweet and pensive.  It's a story that lingers.  

in a sentence

The Unquiet is a tense, atmospheric drama couched in a futuristic setting.  It's about the price of stripping away a person's humanity, and the survival of the soul in the most brutish times.  It's an affecting, character-driven story for readers who want to think.    


will i read this author again?  I definitely will.  She has a brilliant imagination. 
will i continue the series?  N/A, I hope.  The ending stood so well on its own.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.

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