A classic love story firmly placed in an ominously believable dystopian future.
Dystopian fiction is rather in fashion now, so I was a little dubious when I heard that one of my favourite authors was entering into this overly saturated genre. Yet Peril seems to fit perfectly. Many dystopian novels, though enjoyable, take concepts to an extreme and – with the Hunger Games especially – are unnecessarily dark with dissatisfying endings. Peril was a refreshing twist on this, set in a recognisable and relatable world which has been twisted by the effects of climate change. It comes as an interesting thought experiment into what a climate-changed world would be like to live in, and is especially apt given that some of those in positions of authority do not seem to perceive a threat.
The story centres around the star-crossed lovers, Meri and Kel, and the ancient grudge that divides them. Both characters are descendants of the “ancient” nation of Atlantis. Meri is the last full-blooded Atlantean, who were hunted to near extinction by their ex-slaves, the Perilous, after they rebelled. Kel is a Perilous.
The two civilisations are split by the UV-spectrum colour. The Atlanteans can see it, while the Perilous are marked by it. The concept of a colour outside of standard sight is not complete fantasy. The National Wildlife Foundation discusses the concept in regards to birds: “Since birds can detect more colours than humans can, scenes may appear more varied. And colours that are already bright to human eyes are – if applied by UV reflectance-probably even brighter to birds”- Geoffrey Hill (Auburn University Ornithologist). Stirling is also not the first author to consider the idea. In Terry Pratchett’s famous Discworld series, he makes reference to an eighth colour, Octarine, that only wizards can see.
One of Stirling’s key strengths is her ability to create characters who are deep and well-rounded. Meri and Kel are both flawed and yet together we see them helping each other and enhancing one another’s gifts. This seems to be a theme that Stirling follows, which she explores keenly in her Savant series. The use of the couple’s perception of colour as the factor that both divides and unites them makes the characters and their relationship incredibly relevant to today’s society as we continue to see stigma towards interracial couples.
While Stirling’s writing style is little simplistic, it is perfect for her target audience. The split narrative between Meri and Kel gives us both character’s perspectives and manages to create a seamless storyline. Crucially, it also creates enough tension to keep the book engaging throughout. Though the book focuses on the most part on Meri and Kel’s relationship, it is interspersed with lighter portions. While these divisions do not directly aid the tale, they do help to paint a fuller picture of the world they live in.
Peril is a gripping young-adult take on dystopian fiction, which places the classic forbidden love story in a wholly new setting. From the first page to the last, I put the book down once and wanted to immediately begin the second book (not yet written) when I finished. I would recommend it – and any of Joss Stirling’s novels – to anybody who is looking for a light read with a deeper subtext.
Peril will be available in the UK from July 13th.