Author: Mary Brock Jones
Series: Arcadia #1
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Two ecological engineers must change their world to save it.
Fee comes from the mountains of her world. She grew up with trees, rushing streams and rain. The grasslands beyond the foothills are Caleb’s home. Dry, windblown, a place of endless light and untouchable horizons. Ecological engineers for the Survey, the government organisation tasked with maintaining the planetary ecosystems on their world Arcadia, all they seem to have in common are the love both has for their unique home region and the lies they must tell their profit-geared families.
Bioengineered to be an earth-like world for humans generations ago, Arcadia is home to many different peoples, each settled in the areas their ancestors felt most at home. But over time, humans have pushed Arcadia to its limits. A proliferation of dangerously clashing, extreme ecosystems. Unless something is done, soon, the planet is going to hit back. Storms, floods, drought. Don’t bother taking your pick, says the planet, you’re going to get the lot.
Only the men and women of the Survey hear the call, working in secret for years to heal Arcadia’s wounds. Now the Survey has a plan, and Fee and Caleb must follow it to save their world. They must make lakes where dusty grasses rule; meadows where dense forest stands, all without their corporate families learning their true purpose.
But this time, has the Survey asked too much?
Source: Review copy from the author
I’m a little torn (no pun intended) over this epic sci-fi romance, because on the one hand Arcadia is a rich, vivid world with enough political machinations to entertain Machiavelli. On the other hand there’s Caleb.
So let’s start with something good. I loved the world of Arcadia, with its distinctive regions – the dry plains, the lushly forested mountains, the beautiful seas. It’s clear that ecology and conservation are important to this author and the descriptions and issues come through very strongly. If the fate of the planet (ours as well as some nebulous fictional one) is something that you care about, then you should find plenty to enjoy about this book. The conservation work of the Survey is fascinating and frustrating and the real heart of this novel.
Then there are the characters. Fee, I liked a lot. She’s smart and strong and holds tightly to her principles. She battles against some pretty strong odds at times, but I liked that she never backed down when it was important, but likewise could set aside her stubbornness if necessary. However, I found her feelings for Caleb hard to fathom, especially in the first half. Her attraction is barely mentioned before they end up sleeping together, and I just found what followed unlikely because of his behaviour towards her. True, after the halfway point when they actually work as a team for a while, I could see why her feelings might have deepened, but I never really felt the chemistry between them.
Because of Caleb. All my issues with this book always come back to Caleb. I didn’t like him. I really didn’t like the way that he blames his emotions and everything that goes wrong on Fee. He’s unhappy about the Survey plans and annoyed at feeling attracted to Fee, so he’s rude, abrupt, ignores her warnings and sets the tone for the rest of his team to do likewise. I hated the way the plains team treat Fee. They’re not overtly rude, but they have no respect for her, and they get that from Caleb.
The fact that pretty much all the events in this book are set off by Fee’s riding accident underpin everything I dislike about Caleb. He blames her for recklessly riding when she didn’t have the experience, but if he hadn’t snuck out like a jerk because he didn’t trust her, she wouldn’t have had to ride like a loon in order to stop a disaster. Which could have been prevented by him telling her what was happening. So it was his fault. LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE! His guilt, his attraction, his dislike of trees, his anger at the Survey, all of it gets twisted somehow and blamed on Fee. The Ben situation is the biggest example of this. He never trusts Fee, he has no compassion for anyone not born on the plains, he doesn’t respect her and most of all he doesn’t deserve her. Because of this the romance was completely hollow for me.
Which is a shame, because away from that this book is intricate, tangled and absorbing. It does take a fair while to get going and some of the family blustering was repetitive and a little tiresome, but the action and political machinations definitely pick up in the second half and ensure that this is an exciting read. I loved Fee’s strength and determination, even if certain elements seemed to come together rather too perfectly towards the end. Then again, this is clearly not the last we’ll be hearing from this world, so perhaps everything isn’t so neatly resolved as it seems.
If the idea of an ecological political family sci-fi drama sounds like your kind of thing, maybe you should give this a go. If you’re here for the romance, well, your mileage may vary depending on how much of Caleb’s surly behaviour you can stand. Either way, I found it an intriguing read and it left me curious about the sequel.
Torn is Out Now.
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