Heir Ascendant by Matthew S. Cox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm not sure I've ever been in a situation with a book where I adore, admire and am adversely conflicted by a nine-year-old protagonist. Matthew S. Cox has managed to do something that most authors struggle with; given an authenticity to the voice of a young girl. And all the while Cox is able to bring the reader into an intriguing dystopian future that could be our own with only a few missteps.
Nine Years Old
I cannot possibly say enough good things about the construct and characterization that Cox gives to one little girl. We see the story through her eyes and learn as she learns; yet all the while being a little bit smarter than her (as we know what a McDonald's arch is, and perhaps how to play Magic: The Gathering). This nine-year-old girl, Maya, is smarter than the average nine-year-old but it's in a believable and concise way. She spends all her time being a doll for advertisements; or studying online. Therefore she knows little of socialization and a lot about random things that are not all that helpful if you end up on the run from (what feels like) everyone. Maya has genuine relationships with others and like many children falls instantly into trust with some people. Children seem to have an innate sense of who to trust when they are not taught to fear everyone; and as Maya has not had to fear anyone in her life she falls easily into the hands of others. Luckily for her, most of the people she ends up with are not out to get the ransom money they expect she is worth.
There is so much action (especially at the beginning) of this book that it's hard to believe that along the way Cox is able to also tell a charming story focusing on family, love and friendship. In and amongst the bombs going off, death defying drone flights and other equally terrifying (and deadly) shoot-outs we manage to find a connection with each character that Maya encounters. Heir Ascendant reads very quickly because of this action and is likely to keep readers on the edge of their seat. From the opening sequence to about 50 pages in you will have a good sense for this book and it's style. I'd say if you don't enjoy it at that point you can safely put it away and not finish it. But I dare you to not want to know more about Maya and her plight after those first 50 pages.
It's not a mystery for my regular followers that I love dystopian books. The only genre I value above dystopia is fantasy. And give me a messed up fantasy world anyday and I'll be thrilled. The technology in Cox's dystopian world is interesting. It's beyond what we have today; but not so far beyond that it's hard to relate to or believe in. I really appreciate this link back to today's world that Cox makes so that we feel like this dystopian world is very plausible. The easier it is to relate to a dystopian book the better we are at feeling connected to the story and it's characters.
I really, really enjoyed this story and cannot wait to get my hands on the second book. I know it's a bit harder to find but I encourage you to seek it out if you love dystopian stories that feature children. There are so many wonderful themes in Heir Ascendant I couldn't possibly list them all. Cox jumps from the meaning of motherhood, or what makes a mother; over to what makes a bad guy bad? Are all people who fight to stay alive bad? Or are they only bad when they cross a line? And thus, of course the question is, where is that line?
Regardless of how you answer the above questions there is one thing for sure in Heir Ascendant; you will be cheering for Maya to 'win'. Even if you are not sure what 'winning' might look like for Maya you'll want her to be happy, safe and loved because she's just that loveable. But watch out because she's a little daredevil that is willing to steal your heart and jump off a cliff with it. Action, family, love and dystopian values all mix together in Heir Ascendant to give it a rounded out story, characters and setting.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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