by Maurice Gee
When the Whips come to Blood Burrow and round up people for Company’s salt mines, they don’t get everyone. But they do get Tarl, Hari’s father. He is marked for transport to Deep Salt, a place from which no one ever returns. Hari promises his father he will save him and get his revenge on Company. Lo has told him the story of when Company first arrived in the town of Belong and traded with the locals until the locals understood they had become Company’s slaves. The people of Belong revolted and threw their oppressors off a cliff until Company retreated. But Company came back in full force and threw the people of Belong off a cliff and set up an empire in Belong, pushing any survivors to the burrows. Lo also taught Hari how to communicate with humans and animals without speaking.
Pearl is from a Company family and has had a different education, with one similarity: she has been taught by her maid, Tealeaf, to communicate telepathically. When a marriage is arranged between Pearl and a power-hungry older man named Ottmar, Pearl and Tealeaf escape and head into the wild. There they cross paths with Hari, whose first instinct is to kill Pearl. But they will all have to work together to stop Company and the cycle of violence it has brought to Belong.
I’m a sucker for post-colonialist fiction, but you don’t have to be to enjoy this book. There’s a lot of brutal violence, supernatural abilities, and survival stuff in there too! Easily one of my favourite reads in the last year, but I’m reluctant to ruin it by reading the sequel. It always ruins it for me when romance comes into the picture. Still, I’m impressed by Gee’s ability to weave issues of race and colonialism and the cycle of violence into such a gripping adventure story.
Definitely a recommended read for teens and adults who can handle dark, thoughtful reads.