Publisher: Feiwel & Friends.
Release date: April 12th 2011
Hardcover, 259 pages.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Jen
New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.
If you decide to read Enclave by Ann Aguirre because you just love post apocalyptic zombie fiction I must tell you that you will be hugely disappointed. Enclave is so much more than just your run of the mill zombie story. In fact, I don’t think it qualifies as zombie fiction at all, although in her author notes Aguirre does classify it as such. This is a book about survival, humanity, and even love in the darkest realm imaginable.
Deuce has spent her entire life underground in the College enclave. Her people are the most sophisticated tribe in the various tunnels that make up Deuce’s small world. Leaving the enclave is dangerous and only the hunters are allowed out to search for food. Hunters are trained to be vicious and deadly. In College only the strong survive and the strongest are groomed to be hunters. When Deuce is finally old enough to assume her job as a huntress she envisions herself being becoming one of the most honored citizens of the enclave. Unfortunately her dreams of glory are cut short when she is partnered with Fade, a loner who was found living wild in the tunnels and tamed by the elders. He is one of the best hunters, but has a record for losing his partners. Deuce isn’t sure whether she can trust her new partner, but has no choice when they are sent on a three day trip through the dark tunnels to discover what has happened to the citizens of Nassau, the next nearest enclave. The news that Deuce and Fade bring back to College is grim. The “freaks” have invaded Nassau and killed off all of the citizens. The elders refuse to believe that their cannibalistic enemies are evolving into more intelligent creatures and that College is in danger. Deuce and Fade are forbidden to discuss what they have found with any other residents of the enclave. Doing so would mean exile and Deuce fears exile more than she does the “freaks.” Yet, when the elders deem Deuce a threat to their power and have her exiled on a bogus charge Fade refuses to let her go alone. Together they climb out of the tunnels to live in a world Deuce had no idea existed. A world that is full of much greater danger than the dark tunnels below.
I loved the world that Ann Aguirre created for her characters. It is dark and rigid, yet beautiful in a visually appealing way. The society created by the elders of the enclave is primitive. The rules are paramount and breaking them means death. Deuce’s ignorance and blind faith in her world is shattered as she learns that the world is not as black and white as the elders preach. At times Deuce questions her ability to remain a huntress, as she starts to realize that she has the heart of a breeder. Once she is topside Deuce discovers that having the qualities of both will not only aid in her survival, but also make her life worth living now that she has lost everything and everyone she ever cared about.
While the mood of Enclave is dark and the themes are cautionary the prose itself is elegant and beautifully written. The characters are multi-dimensional, allowing the reader to connect with them on several levels. Even the motives of Stalker, the story’s antagonist, are justified given the life he has lived and the importance of survival. One of the things I liked best about this book is that every character enters a journey of self-discovery and evolves into a different person by the end. This allows them to shed the past and move into a place of hope for the future. Unfortunately Aguirre leaves the end open and one has to guess what that future will hold for Deuce and her new tribe. I am hoping for a sequel as the end snuck up on me and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these wonderful characters.