Sowing (The Purification Era #1) by Angie Grigaliunas (2016)
(YA) Fiction | Fantasy | Dystopia
“They can take your house, your daughter, whatever they want.
For Ariliah, life under the militarized Hulcondans is one of order and safety. Despite the soldiers’ ruthless policies, she trusts their judgment. Beyond the city wall, enemies lurk – a vicious race bent on devouring humanity. And if anything ever happened to the protectors, nothing would keep them out.
For her older sister, Rabreah, every glance from a Hulcondan is a threat. When even a whisper against them is treason and treason is death, Rabreah can’t risk one seeing through her as she sees through them. Joining an underground resistance to end their corruption seems like her only hope – until she meets the group’s enigmatic leader and realizes she doesn’t know the people she’s aligned herself with at all.
But when rebellious posters appear throughout the city and people start dying, their world begins to crumble.
And as the line between friend and enemy blurs, both girls must face the truth: everything is about to change.”
pooled ink Review
Thank you to the author for submitting this book for review!
Color me surprised and pleased as punch (what does that even mean? lol) because I just found a new series to get excited about! Yep that’s right, I’m officially OBSESSED. This is a book where nothing is as it seems, no one is all they say, and everything dances on the end of a swinging pendulum and like a cat transfixed I can only hold my breath wide-eyed watching for where it will stop.
I had not heard of The Purification Era series until the author reached out to me and I’m so glad she did because this was definitely right up my alley! It’s an intriguing blend of fantasy and dystopia. While the world-building and monsters beyond the wall build this story upon a fantasy foundation, the plot itself is very dystopian. The humans live within walled cities protected and ruled by the mighty Hulcondan soldiers, but what if the real monsters aren’t lurking beyond the border? What if they’re hiding in plain sight within their own home? Perhaps the monsters lurk on both sides of the wall…
Something that truly brought this story up a level was choosing to write it with dual POVs: the feisty Rabreah, and her younger timid sister Ariliah. By doing this we get to see two perspectives on the living situation of life within the wall and under Hulcondan rule. Rabreah loathes them all, willing to risk execution by joining the rebels to topple their power, while Ariliah sees them as a force honor bound to protect the humans within. The best part is that neither is wholly right or wrong and by following their lives as mysterious rebels begin making noise in town we get to see just how complex the world they thought they knew really is.
The world-building was cool and the plot was definitely intriguing, but another standout factor was the character work. Each character is multidimensional with pasts, presents, and questionable futures. There are themes of abuse, torture, murder, but strongest of all is sisterhood. Rabreah would do anything to protect Ariliah from anyone. She’s had practice with their own mother and now she looks out for any potential enemy within sight. No one is straightforward, you can never trust anyone’s truth to be objective or freely shared. Whether hero or villain each character will have moments that make you second guess your assumptions and gut-reactions.
Of course as the book opens it’s only natural to accept the POV’s thoughts as truth but as the story unfolds you’ll begin to wonder just how much more is going on that neither sister sees or understands. Perhaps the monsters don’t all bite and the heroes won’t always save the damsel in distress. If you go into this expecting basic, straightforward YA writing then you’ll miss the plot entirely because it is packed with layers upon layers both in the action and the characters. Trust no one and nothing for there is always more than what you see. Everything is complicated like real life and that’s what I really loved about it. Everyone wears a mask yet some aren’t a mask at all, but how to tell?
I love how we get glimpses into a citizen’s life, a soldier’s life, and a rebel’s life. And never is it what we assume. While at the start we are presented with pretty blanket statement views on it all, as the story evolves it quickly becomes clear that those naive or prejudiced views are just that. Even with a corrupt system, not all soldiers abuse their powers. Even with a rebellion brewing, not all plans are full of anger-led breakouts. That’s actually something I personally really liked about the whole rebel thing. Too often rebels in books are all Go! Go! Go! Rage! Roar! Go! But in this one they’re playing the long game. Spies, patience, caution, these rebels approach toppling a regime like performing a delicate surgery. It’s something that drives the angry Rabreah crazy, but it’s so much wiser than just going in there and blowing shit up.
Side Note: I saw some other reviewers had an issue with the initiation scene, but honestly I felt it was realistic (and it is, I know military people and this is absolutely a thing – brutal, designed to push the limits, etc. It isn’t personal, it’s tactical). A true and serious rebel organization can’t just let people in willy nilly. You’ve got to know you can trust your people absolutely, to know they won’t yield at the slightest interrogation. Rab undergoes the terror of the initiation test so that she and her leaders will know what it takes to break her only so that they can help her work on her defenses. She comes out of it stronger and her leaders are now better prepared to help shore up her weaknesses. It wasn’t something done out of cruelty, perversion, etc. It was done because a true rebellion is about more than the individual, it’s about a cause. And it really irritates me that people don’t get that haha. Joining a movement isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It never is.
Rabreah brings the fire and dark adventure to the page as we follow her below ground to the rebels and the testing she must undergo to become one of them. Their seeming leader, Sorek, is too mysterious for me to fully believe quite yet (I just know he has secrets and he has this talent for saying a lot without actually saying anything) but he’s definitely one of my favorite characters. How he got there, where he came from, etc. are all questions burning in the back of my mind but even so he just has this charming funny something that has won me over even if Rab is determined to keep him at bay. Through Rabreah’s eyes we also get to see the darker side of the Hulcondans and how their actions have shaped her reactions leading to the inferno that burns within her. It isn’t that she’s wrong, but we witness how one nightmare can taint a person’s perception beyond the perpetrator(s) and to everything around them. It’s another mystery that will make you want to loathe the Hulcondans only to have Ari lure you back to her side for a while.
Ariliah may be timid and clumsy, almost painfully so at times, but she didn’t annoy me. Like with Rabreah there is a whole past that stands as testament to who these girls have become. Ariliah’s POV gives us glimpses into the kindness possible with the Hulcondan soldiers showing that, like humans, they too stand on a wide spectrum between good and evil. For example, Lord Masrekah is the face of evil for Rabreah while he seems wholly different through Ari’s eyes and it makes one wonder what truly went down that fateful day so long ago. I really look forward to seeing how Ariliah’s character develops over the course of the series.
I don’t want to go into too much with the other characters because they’re so well woven into the plot and mystery. I will say that I am left with many a theory rattling around in my mind and cannot wait to read the sequel to see what happens next!
Between the dual plot lines/viewpoints and each character having a complex story roiling within them, this book became far more intriguing than if it had simply followed just one sister and become a cookie-cutter anti-government rebel book. It would have still been good but not nearly as fascinating, confounding (in a good way), and adventurous. The ending is a bit of a cliff-hanger and I am left with so many questions along with an excitement to learn more! Don’t worry, my review for the sequel will be out shortly!
Sowing kicks off a series filled with one-way mirrors, mystery, and the bonds of sisterhood. Packed with action, forbidden desires, and players keeping their cards close to their chests, this series is a intriguing read for both fans of fantasy and dystopian fiction.
NOTE: The author took in the feedback she was receiving regarding the darker themes in Sowing and in June 2019 she re-launched the book after making careful revisions that addressed those issues but without compromising the plot. I think if you gave this book a low-rating because you weren’t thrilled by the darker elements/how they were portrayed (abuse, murder, etc.) or were too confused by who’s good and who’s bad then you should really give it another try. I enjoyed the original version (clearly by my review lol) but I do think this new edition is SO improved! Also I definitely think this is a series you have to stick with to get into. The more you read, the more you will understand!
Purchase Here: Sowing
Read the rest of the series: Quelling (book 2)
Similar Recommended Reads: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Gilded Cage by Vic James, Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta, Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith, The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh, Chained by Susanne Valenti
Meet Angie Grigaliunas!
I’m a fantasy writer and blogger. I’m a country girl at heart – in the sense that I want to be in nature and away from civilization. I love Jesus, the woods, and the stars, and I have ALWAYS wanted to be a superhero with a secret identity. I live in Ohio with my dear husband and my crazy cats. =)