A civil war rages between the Glorious Path--a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier--and what's left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six years ago. Cal has been working in the Path's dog kennels, and is very close to becoming one of the Path's deadliest secret agents. Then Cal befriends a stray dog named Bear and kills a commander who wants to train him to be a vicious attack dog. This sends Cal and Bear on the run, and sets in motion a series of incredible events that will test Cal's loyalties and end in a fierce battle that the fate of the entire country rests on.
An interesting dystopian about a religion waging war to take over the U.S. and the adventures of a boy and a dog as they struggle to survive and find their way home. Perfect for Middle Grades :)
We are thrown smack in the middle of a country at war with itself as the Feds fight off the army of the Glorious Path. We see two brothers (from upstate New York! woo hoo!), captured as kids, torn apart by the war efforts; one has fully converted to the way of the Path and the other wishes to find his way home. Cal, along with a miniature doberman named Bear, attempt to cross the country, and battlefields, to find their way back home to Ithaca, NY.
Now, Cal is an interesting character. He plays the big brother role well and is fairly personable. He fights tirelessly for his brother. The one thing that bothered me was he clearly doesn't learn from mistakes often enough. He would try to fool soldiers from the Path on several occasions, to either escape or help someone out, and they would either see through his lie or would simply be like "Well if your story checks out we'll let you go but we are taking both of you in for now" (smart for the soldiers, bad for Cal). Cal would have no back-up plan for when that happened and it happened enough to make me think, "Cal, this didn't work last time...".
Bear, however, is my favorite character :) I mean, come on... look at that face!
He's a cute, brave, and loyal friend to Cal and the others, showing that dogs really are man's best friend (I'm a dog person, can you tell?). Even when Cal tried to leave him behind to save him, Bear always find him. I really enjoyed reading about the bond between Cal and Bear :)
The book also had many secondary characters that came and went. So much so, that I think this would have been a great story for a TellTale Game (if you haven't heard of TellTale games, they are pretty much video games where your choices and actions affect the game as a whole.) I liked seeing the wide range of people Cal and Bear encountered throughout their journey and wasn't surprised when they were only temporary. It works to show the different types of people that existed amongst the chaos all with different opinions towards the war they were all involved in.
The only secondary character we see for a significant amount of time more than the others is Nat. My only issue with Nat is, like Cal, she's not really that smart on come occasions. For example, she trusts Cal way too quickly in my opinion. Especially with her hatred toward the Path, he reveals he is Path, and she still trusts him enough to take him to their home base? Not too smart, but it ended up working out.
Plot-wise, I think this was really interesting. Since it is told in 1st person, it took me a bit to understand the life of the Pathers. What was a Lighthouse? What's a novice? How do they become citizens? Only a few questions I had and most were answered during the course of the book. I never read a dystopian about a cultist religion that was trying to take over a country before. However, I would have liked some more background on how the nation got like this. What started it? How did they progress that far?
I also don't really get why it was divided into 3 parts.... there was no major jump in time so I didn't really see a need for it. Just a random puzzlement.
The ending didn't turn out like I was expecting. Normally, this is great! I hate predicting endings. But the ending was almost disappointing to the point where I would have preferred one of the endings I had imagined. It wasn't bad by any means... just... not what I was expecting. It leaves things open for a sequel (which I actually hope there isn't one. I do like this book as a stand alone), or open to the imagination.
My last little pet-peeve is (**** and this does contain a mild spoiler so CAUTION***) I didn't like how Bear was absent for the last quarter of the book or so. He was a pretty big character for the majority of the book. I really would have liked to see, even as an epilogue or something, a cute reunion with Bear instead of the "oh yeah, I'm going to go look for him too before looking for my parents" kind of way they left it. When Cal made the decision to go look for his parents, he mention there still felt like there was a hole in his heart, that was filled when he then planned to retrieve Bear. Kind of cute, but still would have preferred an actual reunion.
The Court's Decision: