Genre

Science Fiction, Young Adult

Audience

13 & Up

Author’s Worldview

Catholic, Something Else or Undisclosed

Year Published

2017

Themes

persecution, faith, death, salvation, prayer, priesthood, holy orders, vocation, brothers

 

Reviewed by

A.R.K. Watson

Brothers, the prequel novella to the seven-volume I Am Margaret series, is a fast-paced, action-packed read that will have you reaching for the next volume when you get to the end of it. The novella introduces the dystopian fantasy world of the EuroBloc. In this chillingly inhuman future, officials can show up at a house to drag a teenager away to be killed and recycled for body parts, merely because the parents failed to follow required registration procedures for their offspring. Fans of the I Am Margaret series will be happy to learn that Brothers provides the backstory of “K,” Margaret’s older brother. “K” as a very young man has decided that he wishes to become a Catholic priest, even though the mandatory sentence for priests is not only to be “dismantled” for body parts but tortured to death with maximum pain.

Readers new to the series who begin with this prequel volume should be aware that they are entering a series with multiple plot lines. “K”’s younger sister, Margaret, will be the focus of volume 1 (I Am Margaret). “K” reappears later in volume 2 (The Three Most Wanted). And “K”’s point of view will become the dominant focus later on, in volume 6 (The Siege of Reginald Hill).

Brothers immediately plunges us into the predicament of “K,” who conceals his name in order to protect his family, since they too can be arrested and killed merely because of their relationship to him. Before he can even begin to fulfill his vocation, he must escape from the U.K. and make his way across the Channel, then across the hostile mainland of the EuroGov’s territory to the Vatican Free State. From there, he could possibly make his way to the other main free state, which is located on the African continent.

As if this weren’t challenge enough, Providence places a younger boy, Joe, in his path, who is in an even worse predicament. “K” increases his own risk of capture when he decides to help Joe and take him under his wing. The two boys make it across the Channel to the French Department of the EuroBloc when a tragic turn of events changes both of their lives forever.

Brothers is a story that swiftly brings to the forefront the starkest of spiritual topics. It will appeal to Young Adult fantasy readers who are not afraid to face the topic of their own mortality. The atmosphere of its futuristic Euro Bloc is part Nazi police state, part Tudor anti-Catholicism, and part Orwellian techno-bureaucracy. And yet, there’s also something disturbingly ordinary and familiar about the depicted social divisions, which are based on unquestioning submission to standardized testing and government regulation.

Despite the overwhelming odds against them, “K” and Joe form a bond based on human sympathy and Christian charity. The touching ending of the brief time on earth in which they cross paths will leave you wanting more, much more of this epic story.

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