Title: The Divinity Bureau
Author: Tessa Clare
Published: 21st September 2017
Publisher: Asset Creative House
“Look around you, Roman. Below us lie the lives of 350 million people, spread across the Confederal Districts. Some of them will live forever. Some won’t even live to see a day. But they’re all people that touch someone’s life in some way or another. And I get it. 350 million is a lot, and more than our world can sustain. But I just had this thought that maybe if we all had good intentions – if we all decided that we wanted to leave the world a little better than before – overpopulation can be our greatest strength instead of our biggest weakness.”
Roman Irvine is a disgruntled IT Technician for the Divinity Bureau, a government agency that uses random selection to decide who lives and who dies. In a world where overpopulation has lead to pollution, a crippled economy, and a world in crisis, he’s accepted the bureau’s activities as a necessity… until he meets April McIntyre.
April has every reason to be suspicious of Roman. He works for the Divinity Bureau, which sent her father to an early grave. But he’s also sweet and loyal, and unbeknownst to her, he saved her life. As Roman and April fall deeper in love, the deeper they’re thrust into the politics of deciding who lives and who dies. Someone wants April dead. And the bureau’s process of random selection may not be so random after all..
Thank you to Tessa Clare for sending me an advanced e-copy of her debut novel in exchange for an honest review!
It was so much fun to read a new dystopian novel, after the previously VERY popular genre has pretty much disappeared from the new YA releases, as well as from my own to-be-read lists. This book reminded me of all of the elements of dystopian fiction that I loved: corrupt politicians, protests, lots of action scenes…whilst still reading as though it could be set in any time or place in the future.
The story follows Roman Irvine, an IT technician for the corrupt Divinity Bureau, and April McIntyre, an activist against said corrupt organisation (I bet you can guess where a certain very cute, forbidden love plot line might reveal itself!). While I struggled to connect with April’s character throughout most of the book, (perhaps because I am absolutely nothing like her at all) I really loved Roman’s character. He reminded me, at times, of a Ted Moseby-esque sort of character (from How I Met Your Mother). There was something about the way he dove head-first into his feelings towards April that reminded me very much of Ted’s “hopeless romantic” tendencies! I also appreciated that he was a little awkward at times, liked playing video games, and wanted a pretty normal life – he felt like a very real character.
I also very much enjoyed the dialogue between the two main characters, and the way it developed and progressed throughout the novel. In the beginning, it is very awkward-sounding, in a good sort of way – I think it only emphasised the world of technology-before-human-contact setting that the novel creates. By the end of the novel, their dialogue with each other continues without any of the earlier awkward-sounding structure, and I felt that it conveyed both a good sense of the world, and the development of their relationship, to the reader.
In terms of the dystopian set-up, I was hoping for slightly more of the world-building, but this was definitely first and foremost a romance, set against a dystopian backdrop. It didn’t feel massively futuristic, although that may perhaps have been the point – overpopulation being something that is certainly not an unknown to us now. But, considering that it is set so far into the future that the main character can no longer remember if his home country was once called America or Amerigo, I felt that the world hadn’t changed, in terms of technology, education, job prospects, etc, quite as much as I would have thought. Again, I’m not sure if perhaps this was the point, given that the story centres on an issue that we are beginning to struggle with in our current time.
Overall, I thought The Divinity Bureau was a very good read, with a very lovable character, an interesting set-up, and great writing. I would have liked to see more of the dystopian world, but I imagine that if the story is expanded on (the ending is left open enough that it definitely could be) I imagine we will get to see even more of the dystopian backdrop.