A heartrending, character-driven tale that is spectacular in the truest meaning of the world: a show-stopping spectacle. Five stars.

Who do you become when you have nothing left to lose?

There is something Poe Blythe, the seventeen-year-old captain of the Outpost’s last mining ship, wants far more than the gold they tear from the Serpentine River. 

Revenge. 

Poe has vowed to annihilate the river raiders who robbed her of everything two years ago. But as she navigates the treacherous waters of the Serpentine and realizes there might be a traitor among her crew, she must also reckon with who she has become, who she wants to be, and the ways love can change and shape you. Even—and especially—when you think all is lost.

I’m calling it right now. This is going to be the underhyped book that you all slept on that I’m going to be beating my drum about for the rest of the year until I have no followers left or I die, whichever comes first.

Just as I was hoping, Ally Condie pulled off what I like to call the Bardugo Method of YA career-making. She broke in with a formulaic dystopian trilogy but is now ready to write what she wants–books that are fresh, inventive, and much more complex.

Some people always burn.

I think some people were a little disappointed by The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe because they went in expecting an action-packed dystopian adventure, and that’s just not what Condie is going for this time around. Poe Blythe has some great action, yes, but is much more invested in the interiority of its main character.

The synopsis is a little cagey, so let me give you the deal: In the two years since her boyfriend Call was killed by the Raiders, Poe has devoted her life to building the greatest defense (and weapon) against those Raiders ever seen: armor to protect her ship–a ship just like the one Call was killed on–that destroys anyone trying to board from the outside. Fueled by her own genius and rage, Poe has poured all her love and grief into a machine that, spoiler alert, comes to represent her own journey of grief.

This. Is. What. I. Love. SFF worlds that exist not just for the adventure (though there’s nothing wrong with dragons and spaceships just for the fun of dragons and spaceships!) but because they give the author new ways to explore character complexities.

The raiders made Call nothing. Call who was everything.
I make them a promise, as their smoke and fire blot out the stars.
I will make you nothing too.

I recently reviewed Courtney Summers’ spectacular Sadie, which is a veeeery different book but actually played with some of the same ideas.

As I said in my Sadie review, “YA has plenty of guarded, traumatized girls who’ll kick your butt for looking at them funny, but very few that live in a world that reckons with the ramifications of that attitude.”

Poe has killed people, ya’ll. She’s out for revenge and she doesn’t give a crap. And Condie cares about what that means. She’s treating Poe’s response to loss as powerful and corrosive and ultimately doomed, because that’s what it means. It’s fun to see sword-wielding girls with tragic backstory take out whole armies, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. I’m glad a book like Poe Blythe will be on the YA shelf as well.

He’s gone. And even if I ever get used to that, how do I get over this? The fact that I will never, ever know his whole story? I know the middle and the ending, but I can’t know his beginning.

Rather than sinking time into tangential world-building or cliched uprisings against authority, Poe Blythe zooms way, way in on the emotional arc of one character. This may dissapoint readers who wanted more of the Mad Max-ian post-apocalyptic wasteland, but was exactly what I wanted.

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