Sunday, 27 July 2014

Kim's Review : Divergent Trilogy - Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant

You might think that Veronica Roth's Divergent Trilogy is just another fantasy trilogy aimed at Young Adults. But Divergent is host to much more "human" characters. The characters themselves aren't superhuman / werewolves / vampires / ghosts or zombies. Think Hunger Games rather than Infernal Devices.

This world (of Divergent) is confined to a fenced-in semi fantasy dystopian Chicago, where the lake has dried up, but the EL still zips across town. The town itself is crumbling in places. This world is divided into 5 factions. Each faction has its own manifesto, values, beliefs, demeanour and dress code. They are mostly grouped along the lines of what they think is the cause for errors in human nature and this decides their values, vocations and faction.

The factions are :
Abnegation - Blame selfishness and hence promote selflessness. Volunteer to help the city and individuals and always place others above themselves. Because of this selflessness, they are thought to be morally incorruptible and hence most of the City Leaders are chosen from this faction.

Dauntless - Blame cowardice and prize bravery. Their responsibilities to the city, center around security, so they work at protecting the borders, weapons manufacturing, tattoo artists and the like.

Erudite - Blame ignorance for the ills in society and pursue learning and wisdom, prizing intelligence. They form the city's librarians, doctors, scientists, and teachers.

Amity - Blame conflict and value democracy and peace. They take care of the farms which produce the food for the city.

Candor - Blame dishonesty and prize truthfulness over everything else. They see the world in black and white and mostly work as lawyers.

This whole world seems self contained and no one knows what exists (if anything does) outside the city fences.

While children live with their parents until 16, once they attain this age there is a ceremony every year in which the 16 year olds can choose which faction they want to belong to, in a public ceremony.

Once they choose their factions, there is a series of training and tests depending on the faction and whoever fails is deemed factionless condemned to live in slum like areas and get jobs like garbage disposal. If they clear all the training, they are initiated into their faction and become part of the faction family. If they choose a different faction than that of their parents, very often the parents cut of ties with their children or the new faction discourages their holding on to old ties, because they firmly believe "Faction before blood"

*** Spoiler Alert Begins  ***

To give a gist of each book, there area few plot lines revealed here. Skip ahead to 'Spoiler Alert Ends' if you want to keep the suspense alive.

The First Book in this trilogy - Divergent - is a complete page turner. It tells the tale of Beatrice 'Tris' Prior who chooses the Dauntless faction over her families Abnegation faction. But she hides a deep secret. In the faction test, she turned out to be "Divergent" - the rare case of someone who displays the aptitude and characteristics of more than one Faction. Beatrice could remain Abnegation or choose between Dauntless and Erudite. She chooses Dauntless and the rest of the book hurtles forward in true Dauntless fashion, you really don't know what to expect next.

The story development is really strong and all the ensemble characters are memorable. The plot line intriguingly weaves in romance, suspense, excitement, political maneuvering, back room deals etc which makes this a racy thriller to read. Tris has to do her best to save her parents from a Machiavellian Plot with serious repercussions for her world.

Of course, since this is a Young Adult Fantasy novel there is enough Romance to get the young female audience hooked and much like Edward and Jacob from Stephanie Meyers - Twilight series, I foresee a huge Tobias 'Four' Eaton fan following.

The Second Book in this trilogy is Insurgent. It starts off immediately where Divergent ended. With most of the Abnegation faction dead, a few refugees seeking shelter in the Amity compound. The Divergent army wakes up from the simulation. Those who are horrified with what they were forced to do, leave the faction, the rest unite with Erudite to control the city under Jeanine Matthews.

It turns out that "Divergent" is not really as rare as it was though to be, and there are plenty of them in the factionless section of town.

While quite a few lead characters die in Divergent, there is one character who comes back to life in Insurgent and plays a very important part in this book and Allegiant.

There is another upheaval within Tris's city and a lot more bloodshed, but finally the secret that the Abnegation wanted to reveal to the general population, but Jeanine Matthews wanted to keep concealed is out.

In Allegiant - the third part of the trilogy, a lot more is revealed. While the factionless have a grip on all the weapons and hence hold the power of the city forcing everybody to forget their original factions, a couple of the original cast join up with the resistance and head outside the city fences and realise that whatever they believed about their lives was almost a complete lie. Their lives have been almost like the Truman Show. a Genetic Experiment. And then a larger caste system is shown to be at work on the "outside" one based on genetic purity.

Where do Tris and Tobias stand on this genetic scale ? what can they do about it? What can they do to save their city which is on the brink of another major meltdown?

*** Spoiler Alert Ends ***

Each of these books was a page turner, I cannot really say that one was better than the other. They are all very well written. While the first 2 books are written from Tris' perspective, I loved the fact that we got to see a couple of chapters from Tobias' perspective in Allegiant. I think he has a much more complicated world view and that makes him more interesting.

I definitely am not a great fan of the ending, but I can see why Veronica Roth took that direction. 

Tris and Tobias are quite engaging characters and I loved Christina, Will, Zeke, Uriah and Marlene too. My only frustration with Tris is that she takes on too much responsibility on her own shoulders and would have greatly benefited from 'talking things out", but I guess this character flaw helps keep the story line moving.

There is one scene in a hotel room in Allegiant which was reminiscent of watching a Hollywood movie on Indian or Egyptian television, where it feels like a scene was cut out and just jumped to the next scene. This however helps keep the series PG 13, except for some heavy kissing scenes in all 3 books (for those who are considering whether to buy it for their kids)

Really glad I read this series after all 3 books came out. The suspense would have frustrated me if I had read them serially as they came out. (The George Martin Game of Thrones series is still driving me crazy, wondering about what is yet to come)

Rating : 4.5 / 5

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