Book Review: Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol
As it is today, one always rules over another individual. From a parent and child relationship to a president and citizen relationship, someone is always above someone else in society. This is no different in Bartol's Secondborn. Roselle St. Sismode, secondborn of her mother the Clarity of the Fate of Swords, has been watched since the day she born, and it is no different on Transition Day, which is the day she begins her never-ending journey to protect firstborns. On this day, Roselle meets Hawthorne who ends up becoming her love interest and savior when Agent Crows crosses paths with Roselle and when she is thrown into battle. Roselle has always been sharp-witted and independent, so when she started believing that there should be no social boundaries between firstborns and secondborns for the sake of the world and kingdom she has lived in, she forms alliances and starts to scheme. She is thrown into survival, and she cannot look back and change the past and what she has done.
First, I really liked the idea of this dystopian society where just because someone is born first means they are meant to rule above their secondborn, thirdborn, and so on inferiors. There was barely any world building, though, since Secondborn focused mainly on Roselle and Hawthorne's relationship, which did not have very swoon worthy moments. Gabriel's, Roselle's brother, paranoia also carries on the story due to rumors about Roselle wanting to kill him for his firstborn position. Even though action is a big part of the story, it takes a step back for the drama.
I liked some of the individual characters, but if they ever got together, a scene in the book would either become cheesy or just bad. I really liked how Roselle was a brave, intelligent, and independent woman who could kill a man 101+ ways. She could also be caring when she needed to be, especially with Gabriel and her hounds. Even when Gabriel is spoiled or paranoid, she is kind to him and tries to protect him from his advisors and from their mother, who is downright evil. As every story needs an antagonist, Agent Crow fulfills this role. He is evil, and all he wants to do is terrorize Roselle for no apparent reason. He never gives or implies a reason to why he is torturing and why he is out to get Roselle.
The other characters, such as Hawthorne, Hammon, Edgerton, and Gilad, were stock characters, driven only by sex, and were there just to fulfill the roles of Roselle's friends. They never stuck out to me and were minor characters that took the roles of main characters. Hawthorne, as I found him to be, was too protective to be called caring. He was overly protective especially when anyone else who is a boy would look at her or when she was in the middle of battle. They are both soldiers and can defend themselves when needed so there is no need to worry about each other unless Agent Crow is involved.
Next, many things occurred and people appeared to be considered as an important part of the story but were not. Putting in multiple minor characters is fine when it comes to a a certain point, but Bartol was throwing characters left and right and I had to keep up with all of them. I had a hard time keeping up with who was who and kept on forgetting some of who the main characters were. I had to constantly remind myself who each of the chaarcters are and their roles. Also, Hammon becomes pregnant and it is an inconvenience since she lives on a secondborn army base where they kill the baby if you get pregnant. The scene with Agent Crow unveiling the pregnancy problem tried to advance the plot but it only made my eyes roll several times.
Also, I had an issue on Roselle's grooming. First, she is not allowed to cut her hair unless if three people, one of those is Agent Crow, agree to let her cut her hair. What?! She does not have enough freedom to even to cut her own hair due to the reasons she is famous and she always needs to be camera ready even though she is a soldier going into battle. Also, on the first day of being in the colonial showers, Roselle shaves her legs and boys are getting hot from it. Just because Roselle shaves her legs unlike any other girl in the base, guys are putting her at the top of their list to have sex with, according to Hawthrone and what I can gather from his statements.
To conclude, I enjoyed Roselle's character, some of the people whom she was involved with, and the idea of this new world but it is not enough to make me like it. I am only giving it more than one star because I think the idea for this book could have been executed better and the I found the writing style to be great in some situations, but in others, it bored me.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!