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Radiant Shadows


Orleans - With absolutely spectacular world-building, Orleans held me captive as I watched a post-apocalypse version of New Orleans unfold around me in vivid and careful detail; nothing was overlooked. I did find that I cared very little for the protagonist – Fen – and her tribe dialect. Though I understood her motives, I was much more interested in learning about Orleans and how it had come to be.Fen is a very interesting, and refreshing, heroine in that she looks out for herself first, and does whatever is necessary in order to survive. At times, this means she considers abandoning Lydia’s baby, in order to save herself.I look down at Baby Girl, snuggled up against me. I want to run so bad, but she so tiny. Too tiny to hold the dogs off me for long. Then I close my eyes and feel hot all over, I’m so ashamed. Lydia ask me to look after her. I ain’t gonna throw her away.And when she meets Daniel, she helps him only because of the help he can provide her. While her character arc does progress and we do see small changes in her self-preservation above all else instinct, by the end of Orleans, she is still a survivor who is determined to continue surviving. But while I couldn’t fault Fen for her will to survive, I also couldn’t connect with her. While I learned quite a bit about both Fen and Daniel’s histories, which explained how they had become who they were in Orleans, it did little to make me truly connect to either of them. Besides the unshakable and realistic truth that Fen was a survivor, I really wasn’t able to grasp her characterization because she kept herself so closed, which kept me from engaging completely. And while Daniel was much more open with his emotions, he was so useless that I couldn’t relate to him either.Fortunately for Orleans, I didn’t need the characterization to be outstanding, because the city of Orleans was as much a living, breathing character as either Fen or Daniel. And Smith starts Orleans‘ characterization on page one: after a series of devastating hurricanes, which resulted in a lethal disease called the Fever, the Guld Coast was quarantined from the rest of the United States. In time, the quarantine turned into a full separation, as the United States withdrew its funding and support for the survivors living in Orleans, thinking they would die out and take their disease with them. With the Fever attacking blood types differently and in varying strengths, the survivors band together in blood-based tribes. With AB types being the most severely affected, they quickly become the most dangerous – attacking others to steal their blood, which helps to temporarily stave off the Fever.And that’s just the threat from Orleans‘ inhabitants! As Fen travels with Daniel, we watch them travel across a mossy field with an entire city buried underneath, where pieces of the past float to the top during heavy rains. It also means certain spots might cave in if you’re not light enough on your feet. The landscape was as much a threat as any Blood Hunter, which made every move Fen and Daniel make suspenseful as you waited for Orleans‘ reaction.With such a rich landscape and such an interesting character as Fen, Orleans is a dystopian for dystopian fans – fantastic world-building, a suspenseful plot and a heroine that makes decisions based on logic instead of her heart.