Book Review: West by CS Starr

WestBefore I get into my review of West, the sequel to Campbell, there’s something you should know. Author C.S. Starr and I have been friends for a while. And while we’re not talking about current events and the shameful lack of Mountie romance written (you probably don’t want to know), we get to read each other’s books before they’re published. Which is why I’m woooooefully late on this review. I read West months ago and planned something closer to the actual publication date, then promptly forgot about it. Because I’m a forgetful doofus.

The good news is, I loved West! Even more than I liked Campbell. So it was easy to remember all the stuff I liked about it for this review.

(If you want to read my review of Campbell, go right here. And I would recommend you read the books in order for them to really make sense, because it’s a complicated world with a lot of layered relationships and politics.)

West returns to the post-apocalyptic world of the Campbell Trilogy a few years after the close of the first book. The teenagers who were running the world after everyone over the age of thirteen died off at the beginning of Campbell are now in their 20s. They’ve matured. They’re trading. Traveling. Continuing to maintain civilization for the younger members of society. Some are becoming parents. Society has limped forward and Starr does a great job transitioning the reader into the time change.

Tal Bauman has returned to Los Angeles to take over the reins of leadership, while Lucy Campbell has returned to the Midwest to oversee the vast and sprawling territory that is Campbell. Their relationship can best be describes as… complicated. The war between Campbell and East has continued after the provocations in the first book, and while we don’t see any of the direct conflict, by the time West opens, you can tell both Tal and Lucy are weary. They were dragged into a conflict that neither wanted, and years later, no one seems to know how to end it.

Lucy and Tal are older in this book, both in life experience and in years. Both characters continue to be a provocative mix of naiveté and cynicism. They’ve both experienced things by their 20s that have hardened them. They both have few reference points for the future. If the question of Campbell was Who should lead?” then the question of West is How should one lead?”

By pushing those questions forward and exploring them, the premise of the series really shines. It’s not all violence and action (though there is a lot of action) but it’s the political maneuvering, the relationships, that keep you reading well past your bedtime.

7363997Starr has expanded her point of view characters in this book, and while I’m not a fan of too much head-hopping, she balances it well here. She’s chosen intriguing supporting characters from the first book, like Rika and Bull, so I loved the multiple viewpoints. The book jumps almost immediately into a crisis situation that tests Tal’s new leadership, while Lucy is embroiled in a political climate that is slowly becoming more and more toxic.

The politics are intriguing. The action is compelling, but it’s the relationship between Tal and Lucy that remains the heart of the series. Both leaders. Both incredibly strong personalities. They’re also incredibly different. You can see why they’re drawn to each other, and yet the obstacles seem insurmountable through most of the book.

The ending left me breathless. I had shivers, it was so well done. I cannot wait to read East and find out what’s been going on in that very shadowy corner of Starr’s world. East territory, so far, has been a big mystery. I can’t wait for more.

So, my recommendation is, if you liked Campbell, or even if you were just intrigued by the world, read West. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

West is available at:

Amazon

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

It also has a 4.67 rating on Goodreads! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

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