The Sowing by Steven dos Santos (#2 in the Torch Keeper series) (Flux, 8 March 2014)
This review is for the second book in a series and contains spoilers for the first book in the series. Please do not continue reading if you haven't read the first book.
A year after reading THE CULLING, I’ve finally read its sequel, THE SOWING. I remember really enjoying THE CULLING despite my initial doubts about it, and I had been really looking forward to the sequel, but I am sad to say that I really didn’t like it as much as I did the first book.
After the end of the Trials, Lucian “Lucky” Spark is training to become an Imposer, one of those who will help to enforce the law in the Establishment. At night, he’s sneaking out and sabotaging his oppressors. He’s planning to rescue his imprisoned brother and run away somewhere with him, but before that happens, he gets caught up in a rebel plot to assassinate the Prime Minister and Prefect Cassius Thorn. The outcome of the plot results in Lucky getting entangled in an ever more complicated web of danger and deceit. Along the way, he finds out some troubling things about himself and about Digory Tycho, the man he loved who died in the Trials.
A host of new characters are introduced, but I didn’t connect with any of them, which was a major problem because if I can’t connect with them, I’m not going to feel like it matters that much to me whether they live or die. In the first book, I felt like dos Santos spent more time developing each character and giving us some impression of their past and their motivations and what sets each of them apart. In THE SOWING, I don’t feel like I know any of the new characters. There’s barely any backstory for any of them and they feel thin as paper. Even the main character, Lucky, was less vividly drawn than in the last book.
I didn’t like dos Santos’ writing style much in the first book either, but the other strengths of the first book made me overlook that. Now in this book I was even more aware of how dos Santos relies too much on ‘tell’ and not enough on ‘show’.
I just felt like everything was so rushed. The first book was very much focussed on only one thing—the Trials—and it gave the book a solid structure and a great momentum. In THE SOWING, there are so many things going on that I never feel like the book gets to grip with any one thing and explores its implications fully. As the reader, I’m just moving endlessly from one event to another without feeling its impact.
The thing is, a lot of these things that happen in the book could be so fascinating if dos Santos dedicated more time to developing each thing. That’s not to say that the book was all bad. There were some interesting twists and revelations towards the end, and Cassius Thorn, a major antagonist who was introduced in the first book, alone of all the characters became more a bit more intriguing in this book. Scenes with Cassius in them are the highlights of the book for me. He’s so slick and horrible and but there are these captivating moments of emotion and vulnerability—feigned or real, it’s hard to tell. I just want to know what goes through his head. I would love to read things from Cassius’ perspective. There’s also more worldbuilding in this book which was good.
The third book in the series, THE RAISING, comes out on 20 January 2016. I suspect I’ll end up reading it to find out what happens. Dystopian YA with such prominent LGBTQ content—even more LGBTQ characters have been introduced in this book, including two female characters who are in love with each other—is still such a rare thing, and despite the problems I had with THE SOWING, I’d still like to know what becomes of Lucky and his friends.