If you remember, last year I reviewed Emma’s debut novel, the Orwellian YA title ACID, and I was a massive fan – twists, action and a unique writing style that helped it stand out from the crowd. When I heard her second offering would be a dystopia with a Zombie flavour to it, I was sold. But The Fearless is far more brutal and harrowing than a mere jaunt with the walking dead…
Cass was just a child when the Fearless first invaded the UK. They hit hard, and they hit fast, taking the nation by surprise with their ruthless efficiency and cold violent nature. The Fearless used to be soldiers in the British Army, given an experimental drug designed to help combat Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. However, the drug had the unexpected side effect of turning the soldiers Fearless – an unfeeling, violent core who kill for the fun of it, and how share a singular goal: To use the drug on everyone in the world. Cass and her family secure a place on an island refuge called Hope, along with her best friend Sol, and his family, The Brightmans. The journey is short, but devastating, Cass losing her father to the Fearless and Sol losing his mother to a stray bullet, as well as the untimely birth of Cass’ brother, Jori. The Fearless then jumps forward seven years, where Cass is caring for Jori after her mother’s suicide, and she and Sol are on the verge of graduating into Hope’s patrol, dedicated to guarding the island’s perimeter from The Fearless, and stray survivors who might try to kill to get into their refuge. Sol and Cass’ friendship has become strained with age, as Sol loves her intensely, but has been rejected by her on multiple occasions, leaving him bitter and confused. Cass just doesn’t feel that way towards him, though. Life on Hope is bleak, but the inhabitants manage to scrape by an existence, trading with passing barterers, until one day a new boy is found amongst some of the island’s ruined buildings. The eyepatch wearing Myo isn’t Fearless, but he managed to slip onto Hope past the patrols somehow, and so he is immediately apprehended and roughly imprisoned. Later that same evening though, Fearless do arrive on Hope, kidnapping Jori, Cass’ brother, and all the family she has left in the world. The residents of Hope are forbidden to leave the island to pursue anyone, so Cass has to turn to the mysterious stranger Myo if she is to have any chance of finding her brother alive… and unaltered.
The opening prologue to The Fearless is a superb example of why Emma Pass is such an exciting writer in the Teen/YA bracket right now. It’s punchy, fast and downright terrifying, using explosions of action with claustrophobic passages of such tension that you’re unable to even blink reading it. Cass is a great lead, a good mix of powerful determination and (often) naive, heartfelt passion, and her isolation on Hope allows the reader to really uncover the desolated wastes of the mainland with fresh, unfamiliar eyes. One of my favourite things about Cass (and about The Fearless in general) is that it does away with the idea that the lead female character just HAS to fancy the main male/best friend, because he loves her. Cass is fully able to say “nah, you’re alright mate” in a way that so many other books aimed at Teenagers refuse to do, and I love her for that. She’s under no obligation to fall in love just because she’s loved. Myo is a surely, embittered character with a deceptive streak that allows the book to drop in back story to tease the mystery of the story out in stages, and his character arc is positive and yet harrowing at the same time – he goes through a lot for those he cares about. The only character I didn’t get one with was Sol, but I don’t think you’re supposed to. He’s childish and entitled, with a temper on him that is frustrating to read, but as the story develops, that makes more sense and it opens up some of the later sections on the book in a way that would otherwise make no sense. His actions are motivated by some pretty dark emotions, and using him as a perspective character along with Cass and Myo gets to show the reader the effects of the Fearless Invasion in terms of rage and paranoia.
I think unlike ACID, the plot to The Fearless is simpler. That’s not a bad thing though. Where ACID was a twisting thriller, this book is much more a survival horror, focussing on the resolution and grit of the main characters to achieve their goals despite the harsh world around them. The descriptive passages in The Fearless are great, creating a real sense of isolation, terror and panic that infuses the whole story… At no point does anything ever feel certain or safe, and some of the most brutal, harsh moments happen just as you’re uncovering some back story or character development, and it jars the reader out of any lull they might’ve slipped into, keeping you constantly glued to the pages. The very cold nature of the Fearless themselves helps add to the chilling feeling of unease – they’re brutal for no reason and violent at a moments notice, an unrelenting and unpredictable villain.
The Fearless is a great follow up to ACID, and it’s sure to be a big hit with fans of the darker side of Dystopian Fiction like Ashes or The Enemy.
Thanks for Reading, as always.
P.S. You can find author Emma Pass on Twitter HERE.
P.P.S. For more Dystopian reads, check my blog post D is For Dystopia.