In Enclave, the archaic rules and rituals of Deuce's underground world create a primal atmosphere and unsettling cult-like quality that bring the stark reality of this post-apocalyptic future to life. Like her society, Deuce lives by a rigid code of "daggers and determination"* that may seem unsympathetic, but is also fascinating and realistic in the context of her dark, dank world. She has grown up in the ferocity of the sewers and she knows how to survive. She's a girl and she's fierce and she makes no apologies. She has a will to succeed and a drive to prove herself.
Though she can seem stiff, it meshes well with her militant upbringing, and it's endearing to see her thaw over the course of the novel as she rediscovers her flickering humanity. Ann Aguirre puts herself completely in Deuce's shoes, portraying her reaction to the state-of-nature Topside with impressive care and imagination. Deuce is amazed by things we take for granted, and her encounters with the Topside gangs are brutal. However, I was troubled by Deuce's attitude towards the gangs' treatment of women. In this instance, the pragmatism instilled in her by the enclave makes her seem heartless.
Aguirre is unflinching in her presentation of this bleak future, where life is empty service to the survival of the whole. Living underground, away from life and sunlight, has slowly stripped the enclave of their humanity, until individuality is a sin and independent thought a crime. The ruthless, animalistic survival instinct makes the remaining humans alarmingly similar to the zombie-like Freaks they fear -- except for Fade. Fade slowly awakens the spark of spirit that still burns far below Deuce's rough Huntress exterior. The code of honor and deep-rooted trust that is crucial to their Hunter partnership builds slowly but strongly, allowing readers to believe and triumph in the ultimate romance. Enclave is rawer, wilder and more visceral than many of the dystopians that came before, and fans of the genre will relish it.
Disclosure: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way.
Click here to purchase Enclave by Ann Aguirre.
Part of the 2011 Debut Author Challege.