Publisher: ArbeitenZeit Media
Series: Royal Progress #1
Dystopian novel set 743 years from now in a distant world colonized hundreds of years before by wealthy settlers fleeing Earth. At first, things didn't go well for the newcomers. In the early years, colony after colony failed, and the dissatisfied moved across an earth-like landscape in search of something better. Behind them they left remnants of the earlier colonies to struggle on as they themselves continued to seek a system that could be sustained. They found it in the establishment of Hautland, a domain where everything is designed to be perfect, where everyone knows their place, and as long as they stay in it are never hungry, cold, impoverished, or lacking diversion. For 300 years Hautland has provided stability and prosperity for all within its climate-controlled borders while all around it, scattered across the dreaded Outlands, the older colonies suffer violence and deprivation.
As Royal Progress begins, Hautland’s population is no longer as calm or as contented as it once was. There are rumors of resistance, few of which have reached Princess Bettina – “Bettie” – “spare to their heir” and a Junior at the Royal Academy. Then her brother, the heir, dies in an accident, and Bettie must assume his duties, the first one of which is to lead the Royal Progress, a group of fellow students designated to be the leaders of tomorrow’s Hautland. The RP, as the students call it, is intended to be no more than a PR stunt, a planned-to-the-last-degree trek around Hautland’s perimeter. Then something terrible happens, and the students and their teacher guides find themselves fleeing for their lives through the hostile Outlands.
With her steadily dwindling RP members, she dodges drowning, claustrophobia, beheading, sex slavery, and sabotage. As their mad flight continues, Bettie discovers that there are conditions worse than boredom, monsters creepier than a hostile stepmother, traitors more dangerous than snarky girlfriends, hurts deeper than being ignored by the boy she’s loved all her life, and betrayals beyond anything she could have imagined.
Pen Fairchild’s Royal Progress is a tale of youth plunged unexpectedly into responsibility that doesn’t quite hit the target… or target audience.
The author brings a wide range of characters and landscapes that transport the reader into a vivid world that blends ancient technology (bow and arrow) with future technology (hovercraft). The flow of the writing makes the book easy to read and the pace keeps readers interested enough to overlook some of the less than exciting situations the characters are put into. There is an overall feel ¾ of the way through the book of: characters get captured then find a way to escape, characters get captured then find a way to escape, lather, rinse, repeat.
Royal Progress attempts at being similar to the likes of The Hunger Games or Divergent – young adults struggling with adult responsibilities and decisions – but instead comes across as a bunch of spoiled brats having no clue what to do in a bad situation while whining about their predicament for the length of the book. Dialogue in the book is structurally sound but the topics are going to leave adults skimming large swathes because of the ridiculous high school-like cattiness. Young adults may fare better at finding the dialogue digestible but there are adult topics that may not be suitable for all readers. Specifically, the entire storyline of the Mosteminence, a religious head that regularly partakes in sexually abusing young boys, could have been easily omitted to better pair the book to its target audience.
Each chapter of the book is cleverly titled with “In which…” This sort of ‘hook’ ties the chapters together to make the book feel fluid and offbeat. Parts of the book use alternative fonts to indicate a change in perspective but the tactic comes off as clumsy; some of the fonts are extremely similar which can lead to the reader going into a new perspective without knowing he or she has done so. The resulting confusion causes the reader to wish those parts had been better identified or simply eliminated entirely.
The author wrapped up the story nicely in the end so that readers will feel content with what they just read but also left the story open enough for future books in the series. Pen Fairchild gives a valiant effort toward writing a futuristic story about royalty that some readers may be able to enjoy if they can deal with the royal amount of flaws.