Untamed – Madeleine Dyer


(I thank Netgalley and Ineja Press for sending me the ARC in exchange for my honest review)

A solid read with numerous good points, some just so-so world-building et some writing tic that nearly drove me crazy! 

The very strong aspect of this book is clearly the atmosphere and the pleasurable read: this book was easy to read, quite a page-turner. The characters’ personalities are really credible, which is rather rare in YA science-fi / fantasy / dystopia: most of the times, to charm the reader, the written gives modern thoughts and behaviour to their characters, for an indifferent result, usually poor in my point of view. In « Untamed » the reader feels the alternative reality, there are no convenient extrapolations. The romance (no spoil, see the cover) is well done, suiting the dire situation. I like the likeable characters and disliked the others ones, who were cleverly exposed. The mysteries, for which the reader receive many tips, were interesting and arresting.

But if read this book easily, I wasn’t so much convinced by the back-ground, outlined much too quickly, without much – if any – thought about global coherence. It seems to me that the author was impatient to write her story and satisfied herself with a rapid sketch, and handy explantions, even absurd sometimes. All in all the story was much more fantasy than science-fi, and perhaps would been more convincing, at least for me, told in a fantasy world. Some books manage to hold the two vibes (for instance the superb « Dreamsnake » by Vonda N. McIntyre), but it’s difficult and dicey.

The story is supposed to happen in our world (or not?) in two centuries, but the cars, the clothes seem to be the same, etc. In fact the main difference was in the existence of augmented humans (the Enhanced) who are transformed, and immediately so, by drinking some potions; er… chemical augmenters. I would much have concur with some injectable drugs, but well. The worst (the point I couldn’t accept at all) what the immediate (and very convenient) transformation that happened on the person just after having drinking some augmenter. But as it was a sensitive point of the story, I admit that it couldn’t be altered. But still. So un-scientific!

There were also some bizarre situations: for instance the Untamed raid the Enhanced’s cities, just walking in, masking their main difference (no spoil, so vague, I know) and nobody notice them. The Enhanced are perfectly groomed, tall, beautiful and the Untamed are filthy, ragged, having living in the wild with no bathroom (in the desert) and nobody notice them? Smell them? (sorry to be crass!)

Another example: the Untamed are kind of nomads, living of robbery, with no structure, in tiny groups, and have lived so for centuries, but they know how to read and write. Well, it’s not impossible, just improbable.

To finish with my petty recriminations: the writing. The style is simple and direct, in the present tense, first person, and suits the narrator, a young girl, afraid, incertain and living drastic times. But… who reread this book? How could they not notice the so numerous repetitions, used to express anxiety, by deglutition? I was so obsessed by two specific sentences that I had to count – to ask my Kindle to count. The poor dyspeptic girl « swallowed hard » 26 times in the book and « gulped » 56 times. Passing the half of the book I was cringing like mad at each « I gulp », seeing turkeys everywhere « gobble, gobble, gobble »… Sorry to be so mean, but seriously? (as would say my daughters) To begin with, expressing anxiety by swallowing is rather weird and poor; and to finish, « I gulp » is such an ugly sentence… cringeable; or cringe-making maybe.

To conclude an intense story, with authentic characters and a very good reading addictivity, and nice mysteries, but nor completely appropriate for quibblers as I, and a book in which repetitions should have been cut out.

Published January 10th 2017 by Ineja Press (first published May 20th 2015)