Ella has achieved the impossible - she has escaped from America into the relative safety of Canada, emphasis on the "relative" part. She may be free of the Congressman, but she is not truly free, trapped in a centre where escaped pets are housed together. In many ways it is no different to being a pet in America, they are fed and clothed, but they are also treated as though they need protection and guidance. Escaping from the centre Ella stumbles into another pet who has managed to survive on her own, someone who is willing to help her get back into the United States so she can get back to Penn - even though that means she will have to risk being recaptured by Congressman Gibbs.
The world is a big and scary place, especially for a pet who is considered nothing but property. The black market is their best chance at getting back into the States and close enough to Penn, but it is also a dangerous place for a naive pet like Ella to be. The safe world of an owned pet is a far cry from the pets who find their home in the black market - where any pet can be sold to the highest bidder. As Ella gets closer to her goal she comes to realise that the black market is hiding all kinds of secrets, and that no pet is truly safe from the storm that is approaching on the horizon. Ella has been pushed around her whole life, treated like property with no right to her own emotions - can she find her voice and fight for her right to freedom?
I have been looking forward to Tarnished since I finished reading Perfected - even before I knew what the book would be called! Perfected was a strong voice in the dystopian genre, standing out for a number of reasons - it was well written, had strong characters, and was believable. Tarnished picks up the action immediately, driving the story forward and dragging you along on an emotional roller coaster of hopes and dreams - yours and Ella's. Ella was soft and cowed in the first book, but here we see her developing a voice and trying to shake off the years of conditioning she received while she was in the kennels. Without belittling what domestic violence victims go through, a lot of what Ella went though can be compared to the long term psychological abuse of women who are moulded by and abuser telling them what they are worth and what they should be like.
Without ruining any surprises her travelling companion also develops and grows during their journey, becoming a more rounded personality and taking on a surprising amount of responsibility for both of them. While I had hoped that this might be the end of the story (because while I don't want it to end the wait for the next book would have been akin to torture) it does appear that there is at least one more book to come in the series because while Tarnished is a complete story in itself it does leave hints that there is more to come.
This is a mind blowing series that is just screaming out to be adapted to the big screen or as a mini series, and it is one of my must read series of the dystopian genre because Birch has written a well crafted world that is believable but also just that little bit horrifying and disturbing.
If you like this book then try:
- The Jewel by Amy Ewing
- Wither by Lauren DeStefano
- The hunger games by Suzanne Collins
- Renegade by J.A. Souders
- Adaptation by Melinda Lo
- The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
- XVI by Julia Karr
- The 100 by Kass Morgan
- Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
- The testing by Joelle Charbonneau
- Proxy by Alex London
- Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
- In the after by Demitria Lunetta
- ACID by Emma Pass
- Reboot by Amy Tintera
- What's left of me by Kat Zhang
Reviewed by Brilla