Waking up without your memories and being told that you were the sole survivor of a plane crash might be considered an ultimate win because you’re alive, but it would invariably be frustrating and an emotional roller coaster. Everything that you know about what happened and yourself is what you were told by those who are caring for you in the hospital. Without many other options, you go along with what they think would be best for you, which is to go to a secret base filled with people with enhanced genetics known as Sacromeres.
This is the premise of Sophia L. Johnson’s Shadow of Deception and the introduction readers are given to Kazumi. The story is set in the not-so-distant-future and follows Kazumi’s experiences within this subculture and her transformation through the unlocking of memories and acquisition of new militaristic skills. Finding her potential through her enhanced physical prowess and high-tech gadgetry, Kazumi falls under Sacromere Elite leader Finn’s jurisdiction…but she also falls for him. As Kazumi puts her new-found talents to use, she suffers a head injury that begins to dredge up her past, which threatens her new identity and home. Fighting against herself internally and several external foes becomes her focus in order to protect her life, as well as the lives of those she cares for.
No apologies in comparisons, because that’s the horrible reality within the limited tropes of dystopian YA literature, but the story was reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Divergent. That being said, I was happy to see a decent diversity of character representation that is often overlooked when books are written for teens, perhaps as a way for the reader to more easily imagine themselves as the main character (ahem…Bella is an empty shell, Stephenie Meyer). There were quite a few areas of grammatical or phrasing issues*, as well as some consistency issues. One such consistency issue was about the way Finn smells to Kazumi. After first meeting he smells of ocean breeze, but later on he is more consistently smelling of fresh meadow.
Being decently paced with rather quick chapters, the plot continually escalates and the suspense builds while Kazumi slowly regains her memories. To help with the quick pacing, there were memory dependent shifts in Kazumi’s perspective, which could give a reader whiplash if they weren’t paying close attention. The shift in her perspective helps to keep her from being solely a damsel in distress or an independent woman who doesn’t need anyone’s help. I could see how this narrative could be considered as a feminist narrative, but it feels more like a botched attempt at such because despite the agency that she’s given, she’s still a pawn in someone else’s game. The end of the story becomes a new beginning, lending itself a proper set-up for subsequent books.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review and I was informed that I was in receipt of a previous version of the manuscript that contained more errors than anticipated.
~*~PS. Sophia Johnson will be donating all royalties in the first year for Shadow of Deception to Covenant House, a charity dedicated to help homeless, at-risk, and abused youth. This means the more books we buy, the more money that goes to help youth in need–it’s a simple way to make a difference.