This ambitious fantasy novel blends folklore, science fiction and dystopia and is set on an Earth that has been a barren wasteland for 400 years. Surviving humans are existing in a barely functioning city called Pocatel and they are unable to leave because the city is surrounded by a wilderness full of ‘wyrmes’ – monsters who prey on and destroy anyone who dares to cross their lands.
Leandro and his sister Gabi are orphaned and scraping an existence as pickpockets and potato harvesters in Pocatel. They are Cascabel, a tribe of people descended from the farmers of the San Joaquin valley, derided and discriminated against by the Pocatelian elite. Everyone is fighting to survive and the scarce food is rotting in the ground. The orphans decide to plan their escape from the city, convinced that what is outside can’t be worse than what they are enduring. An ill-advised plan to steal enough food for their journey leads to Gabi being caught and then Leandro taking the fall and being banished with her left behind. A member of the elite intervenes in his banishment and his consciousness is placed inside an ancient drone – an Alebrijes and he begins a quest to free Gabi and ultimately all of Pocatel. He soon finds that outside the city walls there are other Alebrijes, pirates, a hidden oasis, monsters that aren’t all they seem and others who are seeking freedom and the truth.
This is a complex and interweaving story which marries folklore and future and has a cast of many characters which is sometimes baffling. The action is fast and furious and there are many twists, turns, quests and battles along the way. The whole thing has the qualities of an epic film or a role playing computer game and will be of particular interest to readers who love world building and dystopian fiction.