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Radiant Shadows

Dualed (Dualed, #1)

Dualed (Dualed, #1) - Elsie Chapman Dualed had the potential to blow me away: an interesting concept where in a futuristic world where it’s killed or be killed by your genetic twin, a badass heroine trained in knives and guns and lethal with both, and the tension of a would-be romance. Unfortunately the concept was underdeveloped, the badass heroine became a victim of her self-doubt and the would-be romance turned into a frustrating game of hurt and denial.Dualed’s blurb promises “thought-provoking philosophy” which immediately grabbed my attention. I was excited to see how Chapman had her protagonist, West, question the Board and it’s methods and how she used questions of ethics or morals to call their practices in to doubt in an attempt to bring down the system! Of course, since I’m obviously disappointed with Dualed, this didn’t happen. Sure, West questions how the Board runs the city, but other than a few fleeting thoughts, nothing is really commented on in a way that suggests that West envisions a different type of world, a world where ten year olds aren’t asked to kill. I had plenty of questions, however, many of which weren’t answered.With the level of genetic manipulation that the Board has at their fingertips, why not implement a system where each child has been genetically modified to be a super soldier? Why not raise an entire race of killers, funnelling all resources into training and educating them on the art of war, instead of wasting resources on an Alt that’s eventually going to be killed? The Board claims their entire system is designed so they have a city of killers, of people worthy of living in their city, ready in the event their city is attacked or brought into the ongoing wars outside the city limits – but if that’s the case, why are you allowed to stop your training once you have killed your Alt? A man who completed at age 10, and is now in his 50s, isn’t going to be much help on the front lines if he hasn’t been keeping up with his fitness and weaponry.In an effort to keep the focus on Dualed’s action, the subjects that are touched on, are touched on so briefly and in passing, that they might as well have not bothered. For example, West mentions how the Board rules “with an Iron fist” and that they have strict laws against vengeance kills – where a family member seeks out an Alt after completion in order to seek vengeance for their lost loved one. The Board is strict on this, since it thwarts the system and removes the sense of safety one gains after completion. But other than showing up to activate her, we see nothing of the Board. During the entire plot, not a single authority figure is seen or heard of. West mentions them periodically, and the fear they have instilled over following the rules, but we don’t see them. Ever. And I couldn’t understand how a vengeance kill was any different than hiring a Striker to kill your Alt for you? The Board seems unable to stop this from happening, and citizens of the city are willing to turn a blind eye to it. None of this made sense to me, for a governing body that claims to rule with an Iron fist, considering the existence of Strikers only undermines the entire foundation their society is built upon!While most of my issues with Dualed lied in its numerous plot holes and shaky-at-best world-building, I also had a hard time empathizing with West. For the longest time, I could not understand why she decided it was necessary to become a Striker. Bits and pieces were revealed over the course of the plot, and I eventually learned that she was able to forget about the hurt of losing her family, and her guilt over her part in her brother’s death, if she were focused on hunting down someone to kill. She eventually admitted that it made it “almost” easy to forget that she was alone. While this admission was great as explanation, it was far too little too late. I had distanced myself from West, because I couldn’t understand her motives. My exasperation with her only grew as she became an Active – someone who had thirty days to kill her Alt – and she continued to focus on being a Striker. Having now re-read the blurb, I understand that her first mission as a Striker, which didn’t go smoothly, placed enough doubt in her for her to believe that she wasn’t the worthy Alt. But the fact that I had to read that in the blurb, that it was never made explicit during the plot, is the reason I couldn’t connect with her.As for the romance, to be frank, it pissed me off. Not that it was included, but that West needed it in order to buck up and start hunting her Alt. It made me furious that after two hundred and fifty pages, West hadn’t developed enough self-worth to kill her Alt so she could live. The ONLY reason she decided to stop running was because she had admitted her feelings about Chord to herself, and she now had something worth living for. Intentional or not, I don’t like the message of life only being worth living if there’s someone to share it with. I would have respected West more as a character if she had seen the value of life in itself.All that being said, Dualed did have one great thing going for it – and that was the action scenes! While I wasn’t a fan of the character development or world-building, Chapman slightly made up for it with how well she was able to write West planning out a Striker attack, the paranoia of constantly looking over ones shoulder and then the ultimate showdown between her and her Alt.