With an alluringly dark premise, an enticingly forbidding dystopic world, some wonderfully twisted relationship dynamics, tangled webs of lies, secrets and betrayals, and a story that is constantly pushing ever forward, Edge of the Falls is a thought-provoking, deliciously disturbing, dark fairytale.
The world. The world Andrews has created is one of those that captures the imagination right out of the starting gate. It’s our world, but no longer recognizable due to war and morally suspect scientific experimentation. The Earth itself has been fundamentally damaged, and mankind has adapted in order to survive the harsh environment their hubris has wrought. In the chaos following the destruction, it’s been survival of the fittest. And so the genetically privileged are permitted to live within the shield of the protected cities, while those who are handicapped or deemed genetically “less than” are exiled to the Outside, subjected to acid storms, extremely limited resources and the monsters who roam the wilds. Of course living in the cities demands a price, as every aspect of life is mandated, controlled and monitored by the Commission. It’s just all immensely fascinating, and Andrews does a good job of giving her world just enough mystery, detail, and intrigue, while also knowing just how much to reveal, creating an atmosphere that feels storied, complex and fully-formed.
The characters. Our main character Sabah was interesting. I liked her, but had trouble establishing a connection with her, probably because I wasn’t a fan of how she handled things with both her love interests. Am I being unfairly judgmental? It’s entirely possible. But it just bothered me. Still, she’s only human and a product of her circumstances and I can understand why she does the things she does. Sabah is a nurturing person who has a great capacity for love. She’s curious and questions why things are the way they are. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and calls things like she sees them. She’s an interesting mix of toughness and fragility.
There’s a whole cast of well-developed secondary characters that populate this book and world that I was/am dying to know more about – The Mistress, Berg, Wrenfel, Kaida, Rook and the Prince just to name a few.
The relationships. One of the reasons I found this book so interesting are the relationship dynamics. They are messy and real and complicated, and in some cases disturbing, but compelling because it is different than what I’ve found to be the norm in YA. Though this novel had many attributes that kept my nose pressed to the page, the resolution of multiple character relationships was the most page-turning part for me.
The romance. Yes, there is a love triangle here, but it’s not too bad as love triangles go – it’s understandable how this triangle would occur and it does advance the plot. It’s not just thrown in there to add unnecessary relationship drama. But while I found the relationships and romance compelling, I wasn’t a fan of how quickly things between the main guy (we’ll call him “lover boy”) and Sabah develop. Once it gets into the swing it isn’t as bad, but while it was clear she and “lover boy” really, really like each other, I just kept coming back to the fact that I wasn’t sure WHY they like each other? Plus, some drama goes down where they’re both being kind of uselessly stubborn and hard-headed, and that just drove me a little nuts. I just wanted to lock them in a room (cave?) until they had an honest, real conversation. As it often does in stories (and in life), just saying what you mean can often make unnecessary drama avoidable.
Also, I have to say, the relationship between Sabah and the guy she doesn’t choose had me much more emotionally invested. Not that I think she chose wrongly, it’s just her relationship with “odd-man-out” was just vastly more interesting and complicated than it is with “lover boy.” Still the romance, as I said, is compelling. There’s really something to be said for that beastly, possessive, growly, predatory romantic… thing, eh? <shivers>
What? Don’t judge me.
Overall. This book is proving exceedingly hard to rate. The world is well-conceived. The book is unique. It’s creative it’s well-written, but the foundationless romance, and sometimes Sabah herself, kept me from really loving it. However, if you like dark, messy fairytales and if solid world-building floats your particular boat, as always, I urge you to try it out and come to your own opinion.
* Due to some mature themes and situations, I would recommend this book to older teen readers.