Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Book Review: Scavenger of Souls, by Joshua David Bellin

Hi there, net-friends!

One of the best things about being a writer is getting to know OTHER writers. In my experience they're generally lovely, passionate, fascinating people. And what's more, writing is usually a solo job, but it's a collaborative profession: Writers often support each other's work and endeavors because we have a unique appreciation for the dedication it takes to create something completely new.

With that said, I'm delighted to support a fellow writer, Joshua David Bellin, in the upcoming release of his second novel, Scavenger of Souls (Simon & Schuster, August 2016). I was lucky enough to score a spot on his advance-reviewer list, meaning I got to have the actual pre-release paperback proof in my hands to read and review! Trust me, that's a certified geek-out feeling for a book nerd!

Joshua is a highly talented writer of young adult science fiction. He's also active in the Pittsburgh area writers' community, which is how I got to know him. If you like books like the Maze Runner series, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, you'll love Joshua's debut novel Survival Colony 9 (available now) and Scavenger of Souls, its forthcoming sequel.

Here's my review of Scavenger of Souls; I hope you'll find this book as riveting as I did!

--

In this taut sequel to Survival Colony 9, Joshua Bellin returns us to the decimated future landscape that Querry Gen calls home. Let me say this first and foremost: I was thirsty for most of this book. From the colony survivors’ initial trek through the melted desert to discover the cave-dwellers of the Canyon, from there to the mysterious base, and everywhere in between, Bellin has created such a gripping, sensory world for the reader that I literally felt thirsty as I read about their deprivation and depth of exhaustion.

So… it’s not a light read. As with its predecessor, the youth of the main characters in Scavenger belies the gravity and desolation of their world. Querry’s core goal is the protection of those in his colony, including his mother Aleka (who is seriously injured early on), but he discovers throughout the course of the novel that he may be more threat than protector to everyone he loves. Querry leads an escape attempt from the terrifying Asunder and the cultish pseudo-mysticism of his Canyon civilization, only to be taken by the fiery and precocious Mercy to a sterile and soulless base where secrets are peeled back like the layers of an onion. Via the enigmatic and ancient Udain, Querry finally receives the answers he’s been seeking—the events that destroyed the old world, the origins of the Skaldi, his own family history—and they are more horrifying than he could have imagined. Armed with little more than those answers and his own abilities, Querry is the last hope of the exhausted world around him against the fiercest enemies they have ever known.


The book’s pacing was almost too quick for me at times, if only because the richness of the plot kept producing more story-lines and subtexts to unpack. (That might also have been because I was so engaged that I couldn’t slow down while I was reading.) Scavenger of Souls took me well out of my comfort zone, cutting somewhere between The Hunger Games and the Holocaust memoir Night with its teenaged perspective on graphic violence in a brutal and completely unforgiving world. The writing is distinctly cinematic; the imagery leaves just enough scope for the reader’s imagination, as if Bellin is providing the set-pieces so that we can put them on our own stages. This is definitely a book you’ll want to read again, for all the right reasons.