The Sun Song Trilogy by Moira McPartlin
Ways of the Doomed, 256 pages
Wants of the Silent, 256 pages
Star of Hope, 280 pages
Review by Samara Wright
The year is 2089 and global warming, political revolutions, and a strict division of classes have created a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, future Britain that is almost unrecognizable.
Sorlie is a part of the Privileged upper class, spoiled and cared for by his Celtic Native, Ishbel. Despite the constant surveillance and fear simmering just below the surface, Sorlie believes in The State. That is, until his family is ripped apart by the death of his parents, and Ishbel spirits him away during the night.
Sorlie is thrown into the ‘real’ world, free from the confines of the Military Base, he discovers just what it means to be Native. Imprisoned or forced into make-shift camps, over crowded and starving, the Natives have adjusted to the cruelty of the Privileged minority.
Ishbel, meanwhile, must adjust to life under the thumb of her mother, Vanora. Jumping back into her role as a lieutenant in the revolutionary army, Ishbel soon discovers that her mother’s determination to free the Natives has faltered. The revolution is in disarray, friends become enemies, and the Noiri, smugglers to whom profit is king, are encroaching on Vanora’s territory.
Faced with an entire cast of characters, Ishbel and Sorlie make their way through this strange, new world. Both join the fight for freedom, but neither is sure whom they can trust, and danger lies around every corner.
The Sun Song trilogy is McPartlin’s first venture into YA fiction, and the worldbuilding is outstanding. Every aspect of this world breathes, from the evolution of the linguistics to the ruined and patched together technology. The world that Sorlie and Ishbel travel through is as much a character as they are. The pockets of civilization feel realistic and vibrant and dysfunctional in all the ways societies should be.
This trilogy is a fresh take on the dystopian YA. Sorlie is very much a bratty, whiny teenager at the beginning of the first book, but he is thrown into adulthood quickly. He struggles with the expectations and responsibilities others place upon him, despite refusing to include him in planning or decision making.
Ishbel, on the other hand, is repressed and distant. She goes from a minor cog to a major player very quickly, and yet, I enjoyed her story the most. Her character lacks the frustrating elements that Sorlie’s character never completely shook off. His sections of the story could be difficult to read, mostly due to his lack of action. The plot seemed to happen to Sorlie. Ishbel moved through the world with a goal, even if it changed over the course of the story, while Sorlie’s plotlines were meandering and struggled with pacing at times.
Some of the secondary and tertiary characters oftentimes felt flat and read as stereotypes of specific YA character tropes. This wasn’t the case for all of them, though. The main secondary cast felt just as flawed and real as Sorlie and Ishbel. I particularly enjoyed scenes with Dawdle, the Noiri smuggler, and Scud, the Native prisoner.
The often used theme of freedom was presented in a new light. There wasn’t just one enemy or ‘big bad’. The characters all had their own flaws and desires that often conflicted with each other. No two groups of people had the same definition of freedom, with convincing reasonings.
The sheer number of conflicting groups was overwhelming and keeping track of everyone and their goals was sometimes difficult, but this is really Ishbel and Sorlie’s story and they were always front and center.
The mystery of the ‘apocalypse’ is revealed slowly throughout the series, but I wasn’t as invested in the history of this world as I was in the future. Neither Ishbel nor Sorlie was alive before The State took power, and their perspectives were so different from not only each other, but from those that had been alive before the “Switch-Off’, that I enjoyed reading their thoughts on the ’oldies’ and what they learned of the first revolutions. Their reactions to the final betrayal however, and the big mystery of The Star of Hope, is what I really connected with. There was a tear or two at the end.
Fans of YA dystopias will really enjoy this trilogy. It’s through provoking and entertaining, and an original perspective in the genre.