Barren – J Thorn

Blurb:  Murder their sons to protect our daughters.

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 When a sudden storm slams Katy’s boat into the shore, she’s forced to enter the lawless wasteland she’d avoided since the world ended. The horror she discovers amongst the ruins is far worse than she could have imagined. The masked warriors of the Venganza clan chase Katy through the post-apocalyptic landscape, forcing her to decide between her past or the survivors’ future — a decision that could determine the fate of the human race.

This is an apocalyptic/dystopian novel, set in a world where unspecified manmade disaster has left the infrastructure in ruins and civilization non-existent.  Not to say there aren’t people…just not much civilization.  Think Lord of the Flies but all the boys have grown up still warring on their island and there are women there too.  The women are important in this one!

Our main character, Katy, is a midwife who has been avoiding contact with both land and survivors as much as possible whilst still plying her trade to help the needy.  She is thrown into contact with both and much of the storyline involves her efforts to survive with minimal resource and violence on all sides.

This is quite a dark story.  There is some infant torture/death, plus plenty of blood and some heads on spikes.  Do not expect a happy ending from this one!  I think that really that is the only thing that I struggled with here.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the dark side as much as the light when it comes to my reading choices, but I always find it personally challenging when it relates to the suffering of children, and on this occasion I could see where something shockingly inhumane was needed for the plot and character development, but I still found it very hard to get past.

In addition to the survivalist main narrative there is a sub-plot of Katy’s missing family that she became separated from when the apocalyptic event occured and is still seeking to find in the current story, which comes to the fore when the story takes a big twist (which I won’t reveal of course, although I had picked up the pointers before the dramatic reveal).  Suddenly the survivalist tale becomes a personal battle and the stakes are higher.  There was a whole lot going on in this novel and the plotlines interweaved smoothly to create something action-packed but also thought-provoking.

The ending gives a sense of resolution whilst still leaving threads trailing to lead into a wider story arc of a series, and there is clearly MUCH more to say here.  There are questions of morality, brainwashing, gender, and whether ends justify means which are clearly set out here with the intention of exploring them further in future novels.

Whilst this was not my personal cup of tea, I found it an enjoyable and easy read (barring the Reckoning Day bits which I found distressing, but was supposed to) and whilst I initially thought that I would probably not continue to follow this series I found myself still pondering about the story and fate of the characters hours after finishing the last page.  I do definitely intend to check out the author’s Portal Arcane series as well (the first book, Reversion, is currently free on Amazon), so look for further reviews of J Thorn’s writing at a later date.

As if taking the plunge into water, Katy climbed over the railing, closed her eyes and dropped to the ground.  Her feet smacked upon the hardened sand and she stood, her eyes still closed.  When she opened them, the ruins remained in place – dark and silent.  She took a first step and then another, her feet weighted down with the gravity and boldness of her move.  Katy had not touched the mainland since she had escaped the chaos of the end.  It had been years since she’d walked on pavement.

– J. Thorn, Barren (Book 1:  War in the Ruins)

You can find out more about J Thorn and his work here, or connect with him on Facebook and/or Twitter.

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