I received an ebook copy of the book to read from the author in exchange for a review. I would have finished the book sooner but for a 10 hour drive, Thanksgiving, and having a small window with a library book. Once I got into the book, though, I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels or other YA science fiction.
The description of the underground cities impressed me; I felt more as if I were a part of the world than with other novels I've read recently. The characters--particularly Cole, Tristan, and Adele--have believable depth. Their character traits and flaws and physical descriptions never overpowered the plot. One of the major plot points--the attraction between Adele and Tristan--felt cheesy at times, but as the book progressed it felt less contrived and more believable.
Like the first book of many YA trilogies I've read recently, Moon Dwellers doesn't feel complete. It makes me want to read the Star Dwellers, of course, but I tend to prefer the satisfaction of completeness in a book. The ending, I think intentionally, feels like a deep breath before the next book begins.
Non-spoiler plot information: I read a fair number of reviews who thought the book started out too slowly, with a lot of description. I very strongly disagree with that. I thought it was a very good balance of early action with the Pen and the introduction of the two POV characters and their connection as well as a description of the world.
World Analysis: This is actually the second underworld dystopian novel I've read in the last three weeks, so I can't help but compare them (the other was CIty of Ember by Jeanne Duprau). It's not until the middle of Moon Dwellers as the four fugitives escape on the express train to subchapter 26 that I got a real sense of the vastness of the Tri-Realms. (Ember is comparatively small.) The history of the Tri-Realms is also believable, from the “1% Sun Dwellers” to the squalor of the Star and Moon Realms and the corruption and greed that pushed the realms to their current arrangements.
Plot Analysis: It’s a well-driven plot. It’s not breath-takingly fast paced, but it’s definitely action packed. The entire thing feels like a setup for the next books, which makes me want to read the next two. One of the most compelling reasons to read Star Dwellers is to determine the bomb sequence that allowed them to narrowly escape each time. As the book ends, we know where Tawni and Adele are headed, but we don’t know what Adele’s father, Elsey, Roc, and Tristan will be up to in Star Dwellers.
Character Analysis: As I mentioned above, initially the pain/attraction between Adele and Tristan got on my nerves. Until they met, it seemed juvenile, and as a driving plot force it bothered me. Once they met and the intensity of the pain died down, and so did the urgency, it began to feel less like a plot device and more like an interaction between two characters. I think as a plot device it may develop more in a positive direction in the next book.
I loved Cole, particularly when he was first introduced with the strength of his eyes: “When I say strength, I mean strength. Most people talk about eye color when they talk about eyes--I certainly do. And yes Cole’s eyes are a beautifully warm shade of milky chocolate brown. But what I notice is what’s behind his eyes. It’s like he’s wearing steel-plated contacts or something. ...” That description sold me on Cole’s character from the beginning.
I also like Elsey. She’s a remarkable 10-year-old, and feels very much like it. A mature, teacher-like 10, but still very 10. She’s a child, in a tough situation, who handles herself very maturely as things get tougher.
I’m still not sure what prompted Tawni to come speak to Adele in the first place, but I liked her, too. She’s very concerned with separating herself from her parents, which clearly Tristan is also, but in a very adamant way from the beginning. To be a Sun Dweller with property is to be reviled. To be a Moon Dweller with property in a poor district because you are a spy...that’s almost another thing entirely. I’m very curious to see Tawni’s development in the next book.
I cannot wait to read Star Dwellers, and I’m already looking forward to Sun Dwellers.