“Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles” - Tahereh Mafi

The rise to power of one political or religious group of people who begin a systematic oppression of the society at large has always been and continues to be a bottomless pit for writers to spin wonderful life stories based around them. One might even be tempted to ask, why such a bleak and pessimistic outlook of the future? But when the stories coming out of them are all so entertaining, who’s really complaining?

Author L. Anna Lenz introduces such a dystopian world in the book, ‘The Opree Legacy: The Promise’ which has all the trappings of becoming yet another long and successful series. The book follows the lives of three important characters Nathanial, Cyrus and Lilly, all with a fractured past and a spirit that is never steady. Their beloved land, the New Empire City is always under the threat of an attack from a notorious and mythical enemy who go by the name, the Navat. But this fantasy land isn’t as simple as it looks from the outside; there are extreme class distinctions amongst its citizens and there are Gods who are both evil and sneaky. And as it often is with such large centres of power and control, the feared and imaginary threat from outside is pretty dismal when compared to the home grown one, and this is where our lead characters really come into their own as they struggle to find their place in a world that is rapidly changing around them.

What makes this book really good is that it’s not just a clash between the belief structures of the lead characters, but as the book progresses we get to see that it is also a commentary on the social, cultural and political state of affairs of the present world order, the issues in the ‘new world’ juxtaposes the ones in the ‘old world’ perfectly. Obviously as it is the first book in a series, a lot of time and effort has been put to lay the foundation of the world these characters exist in and establish the base for the character’s actions in the books to come. In the end, the author has shown the growing proximity between the characters of Nathanial and Cyrus, providing enough hints of what is to come in the next book.

The book is divided into different parts, each taking the story forward from the point of view of the principal characters. All the characters, whether it is of the young Nathanial or of the rising revolutionary Caleb, have been systematically developed and are presented as real persons and not just as a stereotype. Anna describes each personality in a way that's easy to relate to. The ease with which Anna writes violent scenes is bound to shock you and churn your blood but also leave the masters at this game with serious competition. That being said, her prose and dialogue writing describes the landscape and emotions of her characters vividly and we also get to visualize better, this foreign world that often resembles our own in its culture and ideology. This is a well written book that has also been edited beautifully, the mix and pace of action and politics, war and personal relationships have been handled brilliantly.

The Opree Legacy: The Promise is a great start and should provide the right amount of entertainment to all science fiction fans. Alternating between telling the story of many individuals as they take their personal journey through difficult times, it also raises many important questions of political and philosophical nature. And any book that makes you think is a clear winner in my eyes!