The Arcadia is an entire state, a place of extremes ranging from the living places of the privileged elite to those of the gangs of its underworld. But it is not a state with borders; it is a vast sea-going liner, once designed for luxury cruises. Now it is the home of the abandoned. Forty years earlier a pandemic raged across the world. Arcadia together with other ships promised escape but become a prison, only the privileged able to leave. Esther is one of those, training to be a medic and almost engaged to the wealthy Alex. Nik is a rebel fighting an undercover war to free The Arcadia from the repressive regime in control. Hadley also wants to escape. His aim is to destroy the rebels and The Arcadia; promotion, wealth, success beckon.
Placing her story on board a ship, an ideal closed world, is a clever choice for this debut novel allowing the plot to take the reader on a battle to escape and free the world and the final denouement sets readers up to want to find out what will happen next. Indeed, cliffhangers abound as each of the three main protagonists have a voice. Nik and Esther speak in their own words, we see Hadley from the outside. While this makes for a certain immediacy it also tends to slow the action as each episode is jigsawed together. The language is contemporary and while sentences are commendably short, the author’s desire to fill in the history and emphasise emotions results in a very long book. There is plenty of action, violence, jeopardy, betrayal and tragedy as well as the burgeoning relationship between Ester and Nik. These two young people are recognisable young adults full of ideals, Hadley, thwarted ambition, represents all that is bad. It is a bleak dystopian world and the landscape of The Arcadia, all long corridors, metal walkways, grim engine rooms, reflects this. A dystopian narrative that should appeal to committed YA readers.