Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Length: 331 pages
Source: eARC from the publisher, Month9Books
Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of her dome. Now Nat wants answers. What else might her government be hiding from the good and loyal people of Dome 1618?
So quick recap: Nat lives in a dome where all the residents are told they’re being protected from radiation but then she sees someone on the outside which seems to show that there is no radiation. Nat then begins to question everything she’s been told by the Order.
I really enjoyed this book. I love dystopians and this is actually the first one I’ve read in awhile. There Once Were Stars reminded me a bit of The Giver and of Five Seven Five which is a far less well-known book but that I reviewed a few months ago. But it still had plenty of originality too. I also was surprised that I liked it as much as I did once I realized there was this epidemic aspect to it (kind of similar to post-apocalyptic zombie stuff) as I really don’t care for zombies at all. However, this didn’t make me like it any less, perhaps because it wasn’t a main driving factor.
First of all, this is a very fast-paced book. Except for maybe a couple of scenes in the beginning, every scene helped move the plot along. Even when it was just Nat and someone hanging out, she would still learn information about the dome or the Order that contributed in some way to the plot. Once the plot starts, it doesn’t stop. This is something that I really enjoyed as it kept me interested. I tend to get bored when books are slow or when there are too many digressions from the main plot but that was not at all a problem here. If you like plot-driven books, this will not disappoint.
I thought McFarlane did a great job with the world-building because it was really integrated into the story, rather than there being an info-dump in the beginning of the book. Since you learn bit by bit about the world, it’s much easier to remember things and not feel overwhelmed by the information you’re getting.
I enjoyed the characters too. I’ll admit that I didn’t feel very strongly about Nat. I certainly felt bad for her because she had a rough childhood and then once the outsider was found, she had a whole lot of new problems to face. But beyond that, I didn’t really feel much of a connection with her. I can’t help but wonder if this is because so much emphasis was placed on the plot. However, despite not feeling very strongly about her, I still really liked the book. I was definitely happy that this didn’t stop me from enjoying everything.
I really liked most of the side characters simply because I didn’t really know what to think about them. I think at one point or another I questioned the trustworthiness of just about every character. It truly was hard to tell whether certain characters were on Nat’s side or whether they would betray her and it added a lot of suspense and suspicion to the story.
There was a love triangle in this with Nat, Evan, and Jak. I will go on record and say that I despise Jak because basically he does nothing but whine about Nat not wanting to be with him. In the beginning, she’s unsure about it and asks him to give her time to think and adjust as a lot of stuff has happened to her recently which was toootally reasonable but he gets all grumpy and ugh. There are a few parts where he redeems himself but I really just didn’t like him. Evan was much better but there were times where he complained way too much or was just downright mean. Anyway, I’m not someone who gets annoyed by love triangles so I can’t really comment much on it. I like love triangles, no matter how overdone they are haha
Overall, this was a fun and entertaining read. Full of conspiracies, betrayals, and suspense, I was entertained from beginning to end. Give this a try if you like dystopian or sci-fi. The ending makes me think there will be another book but it isn’t listed as part of a series on Goodreads so I’m not sure whether there will be. I really hope so as I am desperate to see what happens next to Nat and Evan!