I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Let me start of by saying that this book was beautifully written. It was detailed, immersive, and had a subtlety that I cannot help but be impressed by. This author clearly took her time while weaving this story and the result was nothing short of lovely. I didn’t fall in LOVE with the main characters, but they each had their moments to shine, and I ended up liking all three of them.
Willow and Leaf are siblings who have just suffered the loss of their father. When the story begins, they are both grief-stricken and handling it in very different ways. Leaf chooses to take over the responsibilities of the family, and Willow–well Willow chooses to be a brat! Even though I know that I was not supposed to like or agree with her behavior, it was difficult for me to enjoy reading about her for the first half of the book. The choice to allow her to be unlikable for a while, is a decision that I respect the author for making, but that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t like her. She was much too hard on her brother, complained too much, and her impulsive and indecisive nature could be annoying.
I think it is only fair that I tell you that the character of Willow does grow during the course of the novel, and if she were not so difficult to like for the first half of the book, I would not have been so proud of her growth during the second half.
My experience with Leaf was almost the exact opposite of my experience with Willow, and I guess that is fitting because they were such different people. I liked him almost immediately because he was such a strong, responsible, and caring older brother. He takes it upon himself to fill the hole that his father left in the lives of his two younger sisters, and he is very serious when it comes to not only protecting, but loving them. That is why I had such a problem with Willow. Leaf is not perfect, but he loved her very genuinely even when she was hard to love so I wanted her to give the poor guy a break. Leaf also has some personal growth during the book, but his growth is about him learning to allowing himself to feel and express his emotions openly where Willow needed to learn to control her impulses better.
Fillion was definitely my favorite character. He was your typical “bad boy with a soft heart”, but that character is always likable when well written. He has spent a lot of time being isolated from the rest of the world because of who he is, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he also has a strained relationship with his family. This combination made for a very lonely and sensitive character. The only person he really has in his corner is his best friend Mack, and the only two people he really feel safe enough to care about is that same best friend and his younger sister.
He uses sarcasm as protection from getting hurt because he has been hurt so much and so severely in the past, but none of this keeps him from developing a strong connection with Willow. I won’t tell you how the connection forms between the two, but when it happens, it is very intense and very sweet. Both of the romances in the book had an intensity that I enjoyed. Actually, I wish that more time had been spent on the romance because they were so well done! The romances were pure, honest, and very passionate without resorting to raunchiness.
Willow and Fillion flirted through arguing, and argued while they flirted. He appreciated how unique and innocent she was, and she understood that underneath all of the tattoos and sarcastic words, there was a very hurt young man with the capacity to love. The fact that they were genuinely from two different world only added to the star-crossed aspect of this romance, and by the end of the book, I wanted to read more about their love story.
I am not a reader that needs a book to be all or mostly about a romance. I can even enjoy stories that barely have romance in them, but because the romance was done so well, I needed more in order to fully enjoy this particular story.
The concept for this novel is very original. The entire story is set in the future, but Leaf and Willow were born into an experiment that requires them to live as though they were born in Medieval times. They have absolutely no technology (not even light bulbs), and they were raised under the same type of strict moral code that I think we all associate with Medieval history. Men and women are not supposed to engage in the mildest of physical contact and there is a system for the way most things are done.
I will say that both Leaf and Willow broke several of these rules during their respective romances, and the fact that the rules existed made their behavior actually seems scandalous to me even though it was very tame. Lol
The idea of the biodome will most definitely appeal to fans of role-playing because that is essentially what it is. One day the parents decided that they wanted to conduct an experiment to see if it would be possible to colonize an uninhabited planet, and they chose to do this by raising their children in a confined environment that was isolated from the rest of the world. Leaf and Willow are aware of this “game”, but because it is the only life they have ever know, it isn’t a game at all to them. This was just a fantastic idea for a book!
Most of this story sets you up for a sequel, and I didn’t get really interested until the last 10%, but then I was angry that it had come to an end because I was just getting to the good part. In fact, it is the last 10% of the book that convinced me that I want to continue with the series. I was sure that this was going to end up being a three star read for me because of the slower pace of the storytelling, but I connected with the story towards the end, and I don’t think that connection would have happened without all storytelling and details that preceded it. I need to know what happens next, and I am looking forward to reading more about Willow, Leaf, and Fillion’s story.
Because of language, I would recommend this book for ages 14 and up.