Dystopian Spice, Sakina Ali
Shield, by Rachael Craw, is a 21st-century-based book that concludes the Spark trilogy. The young adult trilogy is told from Evie’s – a teenage girl’s – perspective and explains the many trials and challenges she faces as a government experiment, as well as with her love-life and complicated family.
As Stray left off with a traumatic event, Shield starts off with an insight into how Evie is coping with having lost loved ones, which includes therapy and avoiding certain people while in school. The story carries on in the Affinity headquarters, where training and orientation for Shields – one of the kinds of people affected by the experimentations – takes place. There, Evie meets her father, and a few people from previous books, who plan to work together to try and cure the DNA mutation that make Shields and Strays what they are.
The book may not be the typical dystopian novel, but it does include the many clichés that are found in one.
Editor’s note: This includes a love interest, a power hungry antagonist, and a complex family secret. As the storyline develops, opposition develops further from higher members of the Affinity who believe that Evie is the property of the organisation and belongs under their command. The main antagonist is Councillor Knox, who not only works with Evie’s father, Ethan, but has a huge amount of support from the Shield community. He holds power over Evie and her father in the form of blackmail, and also plans to use Evie and her love interest, Jamie, to reproduce for the purpose of experiments, because of the special DNA they share.
While showing up to the average reader as evil and cold-hearted, however, one could almost say that everything that Councillor Knox does is to protect his organisation and people. These thoughts create confusion in the reader, as well as excitement.
There are other characters that add spice to the story, for example Miriam and Ethan. For most of the first part of the story, Miriam is believed to be Evie’s aunt. Throughout the next two books, she is incapacitated, and can only be saved if Evie breaks the laws of the organisation. Ethan, on the other hand, is a widely supported Councillor and leader of the Affinity organisation, until the second and third part of the story. In Shield, he plays a vital part in aiding Evie to do many things for the greater good, because of his relationship with her.
Supporting characters like Kitty, who played a vital role in the first two books, hardly show up in Shield, which is quite sad, as characters like this help in character development for the protagonist. She brought out a different vibe from Evie in all the scenes she was a part of, as well as gave good dialogue and spice to certain parts of the story.
As this book has the many clichés a dystopian novel usually has, it can be said that it is similar to books like Divergent. Both trilogies follow the plotline that stems from a government-supported organisation that experiments with DNA. In both stories, the protagonists find love with the gorgeous, slightly off-limits guy, and are also part of a family line that holds some kind of secret. However, while the Divergent trilogy is set in the future, Craw’s books are set in the early 21st century.
As a reader who is a huge fan of dystopian and sci-fi-type Young Adult novels, I believe Craw has done well in concluding the Spark trilogy. She has written the book in a way that leaves the story open for more, if need be, which can be both good and bad. However, I feel there was little character development when it came to the protagonists, especially when it involved the incapacitation of certain characters. I also feel that, while there is a small love triangle, the outcome was too obvious and, in a sense, clichéd. Since there was an open ending, it left me feeling that the story was incomplete; however, this may mean that there is a possibility of more stories in the Spark universe.
Overall, Shield was a great read for me. I enjoyed the storyline, with the exception of the ending. Craw’s characters were all agreeable and made a decent contribution to the main storyline and plots, occasionally causing a plot twist that made the story even more exhilarating and enjoyable.
Sakina Ali is aged 14, from Auckland.