Author: Melissa Riddell
Title: The Descendant
Genre: Science Fiction / Romance / Post-Apocalyptic
This story introduces readers to the world of Tilly Morgan, a young woman trying to find her older sister, who had been attending college when their parents died, all electronic devices failed, and the world fell apart.
Tilly is crossing the southern states on foot, trying to go from Texas to Florida without getting killed by alien spheres that patrol the skies or starving, as everyone still alive seems to be scavenging and out for themselves.
The story handles challenging topics like a sexually abusive encounter Tilly had early on and the anger and desire for revenge Tilly feels toward the aliens who destroyed her life, but it largely focuses on the relationship between Tilly and a young stranger named Jareth who befriends Tilly’s dog and seems determined to go along with Tilly, whether she wants his help or not.
The narration is present tense and very detailed, and the pacing is slow to allow readers to really soak up the world and how it works, how it’s changed, and how Tilly’s navigating the difficulties she’s facing. A variety of senses are used, and the story is told entirely from Tilly’s point of view in first person, which beautifully fits the kind of experiential story being told in this novel.
The pacing can seem a little slow in some sections, to where the action is realistic but uneventful, but this fits the type of story being told, where this is more about the relationships and the day-to-day living than about the aliens, their technology, or any resistance being organized against them. The book is part of a series, so while the story definitely progresses, it also sets up plot threads that aren’t resolved by the end of the book.
The language Tilly uses on a frequent basis pushes this into a New Adult category rather than Young Adult, for while she is growing up and finding her place in the catastrophic new world she lives in, she does so with a vocabulary that regularly includes strong swear words. Likewise, Jareth is a young widower who had a daughter and wife who died in the plague that killed Tilly’s parents, which equally places him in his twenties.
There are places where minor details don’t feel consistent, and some readers may feel like the inclusion of a sexual abuse thread where the victim escaped before the experience went too far allows the story to somewhat conveniently dip into flashbacks without truly reflecting what survivors would feel, to where it’s used for its plot value rather than accurately showing a more likely reality.
Tilly’s dog is every bit a major character in his own right and will appeal to readers who love animals, as his antics regularly add humor to the story, varying the romantic and physical chemistry between Tilly and Jareth with a delightful vein of good natured fun.
Readers who enjoy a slow burning romance, full of complications and unexpected surprises, will love this story. It’s immersive and very well-written, revealing a rich, realistic world and a tight-knit cast of complex, believable characters.
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