By Casie Aufenthie
© 2021, Independently Published
Kindle version; file size 777 KB
In a future where humanity has divided through evolution, war has devastated not only the surface of the Earth, but all traces of civilization outside those areas controlled by the Illuminatos, most evolved of the species. Seven Illuminatos rule the rest of humanity through a Council dedicated to an iron hand and severe oppression. Interspecies tensions run high—except for those of all three species who have chosen to join the Resistance.
Tristan, a high-ranking Illuminatos, has turned his back on his own future to lead the rebels. Samara, a skilled corporis warrior, is sent by her master to bring Tristan home or face a horrific death. Her mission: to make him love her and convince him to come home on his own. But when Tristan turns out to be nothing like the other Illuminatos, Samara begins to question her mission, her belief that the world cannot be changed, and everything she has ever been taught.
I loved the characters in this story: Tristan, the brilliant but compassionate Resistance leader; Samara, the strong warrior who has closed off all emotion; and Wyatt, the tortured antagonist with relatable reasons behind his every action. It was easy to connect to each of them, though it took a bit longer for Wyatt, since his motivations come clear late in the story. Aufenthie also made it easy to understand how each character came to be in their predicament, and artfully twisted each of their individual arcs around the others. The characters in this storyline demonstrate that not all “evil” actions are perpetrated by “evil” people, and sometimes knowing a person’s backstory can mean the difference between hatred and compassionate understanding.
Settings, too, are well done. Cities ruled by the Council members are (mostly) pristine and elegant, made for easy living—for Illuminatos, at least. By contrast, areas outside the protection of the cities are wastelands, utterly devastated by the species war. Storms rise with no warning, awful in nature, terrifying in strength. The hidden Resistance takes refuge here, but protected by rebel Illuminatos, they remain safe.
The differentiation in treatment between the species brought to my mind issues of racism and other such conflicts in our own world. Illuminatos see both Corporis and Unevolved as “mongrels,” animals who don’t require or deserve humane treatment, or who are stupid and easily led by the sheerest of facades. Corporis and Unevolved both regard Illuminatos as oppressors, rightfully so in most cases. Unevolved see Corporis and Illuminatos as alien, barbaric. Only in the Resistance, where Tristan and his council make daily efforts to affirm that all humans are equals, do the tensions between species fade. It’s easy to see vague parallels between their situations and our own, sometimes.
The Drift is book one in a duology, and worth the read. It seemed to me to teeter, at times, on the brink between young adult and new adult, neither of which are favorites for me. Yet there was plenty of adult-level psychological content to hold my interest. Definitely recommended.