At first glance, Madeline Landry has a perfect life. The only daughter of the Landry family -- the premier family and a descendant of the portable nuclear devices that power this futuristic Kansas City -- she has the world at her fingertips. Opulent gowns, marble houses, libraries at her fingertips. You would think she'd be happy. And she is, for the most part. Aside from a disagreement with her father about her future -- she wants to go to the university; he wants her to stay home, marry, and run the estate while popping out heirs -- she is blissfully unaware of the tension that exists beneath the surface.
It's not until the unlanded David Dana comes into her life that Madeline figures out that she's basically living a lie. David is friends with the leader of the Rootless -- the unpaid labor force that changes out the nuclear charges -- and Madeline gets involved with their cause. Sure, there's a bit of a love story there as well, but it's mostly about Madeline's awakening to the lie that her family created.
In many ways, Hagen is treading the same ground as every other dystopian book before her. The world has fallen apart and has an unpleasant rebuilding. There is tension between the factions -- class tension in this case -- and there is an uprising coming. That said, I think Hagen comes at it from an intriguing perspective. Though she gives no explanation for how it became that way, women are basically pigeon-holed into a Victorian
lifestyle and expectations. Men -- specifically a few men who call themselves the Uprisen -- have all the power. Which means that there's not only class tension but gender tension as well.
Hagen is also looking at this tension from the other end of the scope. While there are Rootless characters, this really is Madeline's and the gentry's story. We are supposed to see the holes in the facade, the problems with the society as it is, even while being amazed at the pretty gowns and parties. It's a story of growth, of realization, and, ultimately,
of action. Additionally -- much to my relief -- there's no love triangle (or there is, but it's a major factor) and there's no real sense of fighting the "man" that there often is in dystopians.
It's not a perfect beginning, but it is an intriguing one. And one that makes me curious to see where the rest of this series goes.