Book Review: THE UNION

A Union flag, half-blue and half-red, was proudly stationed behind each pupil. The white lines and stars had been removed long ago. Father explained that those signs symbolized the division of the states and old powers that had fallen.

I just finished The Union by Leah Vernon — a great read and the start of a promising sci-fi dystopian series. The premise is fantastic: a few centuries from now, black elites have enslaved the white lower class…. amazing, right? And the execution of it all is also top-notch.

The main characters are Avi, an “elite” born into a powerful family and heir to the empire. And Saige, an enslaved, mixed-race girl whose life experiences have made her tough as nails. When Saige saves Avi from an assassination attempt, the two become intertwined, pulling each other deep into their respective worlds. Here, Avi experiences the horror her society exacts on the enslaved firsthand. Whereas Saige is unwittingly trained and indoctrinated as a Watchman, a paramilitary unit that enforces the nation’s cruel laws.

My body was live art. A fine specimen, delicate and smooth, more satisfying when consumed slowly. I was nothing they said I was. I thought none of their universal thoughts. I was not a machine or a computer. I was not a Lower Resident or an Impure. I was flesh. I was human. I was a heart that pumped to the beats of the music around me.

As a number of unexpected allies and antagonists reveal themselves — some surprising, others heartbreaking — Avi and Saige come to grips with who they are, the decisions that led them to this point, and the kind of change they want to champion. Oh, and there’s a pretty fun twist there at the end.

Full of vivid, visual — sometimes brutal — descriptions and engaging, fleshed-out characters, the prose is fast and well-written. As the start of a series, the world-building is effective and thorough, and the author has a plethora of directions to take the characters.

Overall, The Union is a fantastic allegory of the inequity and injustice in our world today. For that reason alone, this novel may very well become a lightning rod to those that want to ignore reality and cast history aside. But I have total respect for the author for tackling these issues… and wrapping them all into an absolutely thrilling story.

I’ll end this review with this: book two comes out next year. And I cannot wait! The Union (47North, 2022) is available to purchase here. And you can find Leah Vernon here — thanks for reading, folks! 

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