Monday, September 29, 2014

Review - Rebels by Jill Williamson - CSFF Blog Tour

Finally, a book review by Julie, for the CSFF Blog Tour! Wow; it has been a while.

Book: Rebels by Jill Williamson

Ridiculously simplified summary:

Third/final book in a series. The so-called "Safe Lands" are a dystopian place where morals are lax, infertility and illness is rampant, pregnant women are celebrities, and rule-breakers--and anyone over 40--face a mysterious, final fate known as liberation. Young adult prodigy Mason and his troubled brother Omar are "liberated." Instead of leading to death (as some had suspected), those who are liberated find themselves little more than slaves. Meanwhile, the people of Glenrock live in hiding underground...until one of their own is captured and turned into the new Safe Lands "queen."

Can Mason and Omar escape and relay the truth to the people of the Safe Lands? Will the people of Glenrock ever be reunited and make it home?

Content: I didn't see much Christian content here, even compared to the previous books. I don't remember any Christian content that would have offended any non-believers, and linking much of this to Christianity seemed kind of a stretch to me. (I think that's a legitimate way for a Christian to write a book, but it wasn't what I expected from a Christian novel.)

There was substantial and somewhat graphic content that read very much as an argument against eating meat/in favor of a vegetarian lifestyle, though technically I believe it was more against factory farming.

Like the first two books, there is reference to drugs, sex, and even prostitution. I didn't notice any language because in the Safe Lands, new words like "stimming" have come along to replace the ones we know.


Characters - 8 out of 10. It was a pleasure to see Mason, Omar, Shaylinn (and yes, my beloved super-hacker Zane) again. When the people of Glenrock go underground, there are quite a few new people to meet (including a woman who's every bit as unlikable as Levi!). If anything, I feel like there were perhaps too many characters this time around, though I'm not sure that could have been avoided.

And I still very strongly dislike Levi. I got to almost tolerate him but then by the end of his final point of view chapter, I hated him all the more. I do sometimes have troubles with "growth" story arcs... In this case, Levi had no traits that I liked or could grab on to (OK, aside from a love of ranch dressing) and his growth was overall quite subtle, so I still can't stand him.

On the other hand, new characters like Medic Cadell and Nash were engaging, and we got to see new sides of some established characters, too.

Suspense/stakes - 4 out of 5. I thought there were a few slow bits here and there--when I got busy and was maybe 2/3 through the novel, I didn't mind taking a break for a few days--but the last portions of the book flew by.

World building - 5 out of 5. Even adding yet two new cultures/groups of people to the mix, Williamson did a great job making it feel like every environment was real. I hope I can do so well someday.

Writing/editing - 4 out of 5. Overall I felt the novel was somewhat rushed; I don't know if it was a rushed publication schedule or just a symptom of having too much content to fit in.  I lean towards the latter.  Overall everything read fine and I think it was competently edited, but I was very surprised to find two typos in the first paragraph after the section break on page 377, right as the climax was winding down. One of the errors created an incomplete sentence that hung me up for a little while.

Clarity - 4 out of 5. I felt like this novel was a bit rushed, but there were never any technical issues that completely lost me. (That said, I think it would be difficult for anyone who hadn't read the first two books to get into this one--as in Outcasts, there are precious few concessions to people who hadn't read the first book, although I actually feel like there may have been more explanations here than in Outcasts.  That said, I don't even remember Zane's missing ear being mentioned until near the very end!)

Plausibility/believability - 3 out of 5. Trying to keep from massive spoilers, it was a little hard for me to believe that a world so strictly controlled would let the events transpire that resulted in the truth being revealed. That said, I sure can't think of a better way for it to go down...I guess there were some sympathetic or curious people in high places who weren't mentioned or who I missed. I also thought the climax with Lawten was unnecessarily over the top, but I guess you have to set that kind of thing up if to take care of a villain.  (Though to me, the real villain was the society that was built, not one desperate individual.)

Positive - 4 out of 5. One could actually make a pretty good argument that even the rebels in hiding had created a world as messed-up and dark as ours....but in the end there is hope for improvement.

Gut reaction - 3 out of 5. This is a tricky rating. Based on Outcasts, I had my expectations so high for this one that I was almost bound to be disappointed. Williamson did a good job with this and things ended as well as I could have hoped for, but I still feel like it was missing something. If I knew there would be a fourth book, or short stories/novellas set in the same world, I'd be a bit happier with the ending.

Free points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Anyone who read Books 1 and 2 in the series.

Total Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars

Here are the other participants!

Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Jeremy Harder
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Elizabeth Williams

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book. Actually, they sent me two for some reason, but I don't think I can do a giveaway since it's not the kind of book you can read without reading the first two in the series.


  1. I agree with much of what you have to say here. I felt the book were a bit rushed, and I despise Levi! I also found Jordan to be frequently annoying and unnecessary to much of the story. There were many characters and I often get confused with that, and I think several were underdeveloped, but sometimes that's the way it has to be I guess.

    Personally I found the story bordering on the unbelievable. Both Bliss and the way the government was exposed seems like a stretch at best.

    1. Yeah, I would have almost liked to see this as 4 books. As a reader, I still felt like I was firmly in the worlds portrayed, so that helped me overlook some of the parts that weren't necessarily plausible. (Not everything that happens in our own world is plausible; fiction is actually held to a higher standard...but the details helped me suspend quite a bit of disbelief.)

      And I'm not going to lie; I kind of liked Jordan! But if we'd been seeing the world through his eyes, instead of just getting some interjections from him, he probably would have been as obnoxious to me as Levi.

  2. You raise some interesting points. It is definitely a series I enjoyed but not one I'd want to necessarily re-read . . .

    1. Part of me wants to re-read the series, or at least books 1 and 2, now that I know how it all comes together. But I think many suspenseful stories are hard to re-read...once you know how it ends, a lot of the tension is gone.

  3. Yes, there was a woman as unlikable as Levi. I like to see the two of them debate one another about their own personal opinions. Might be interesting to see.

    1. That would be outstanding! It is not fair to that other character, as I doubt she'd actually be physically violent, but I still get the feeling that Levi would end up with a knife in the stomach.

  4. Thanks for the post! This was a Blink book, which is an imprint Zonderkidz began for the general market. So it technically wasn't a Christian book, though I don't know how well Zonderkidz is doing letting readers know that. But that is why the Christian content is so low in this series.

    I did, as usual, get myself into trouble with too many characters. It was a lot to try and tie up in book three. And, again, I didn't set out to write science fiction--it's not my strength. But with s disease to cure, I had moments of despairing as I was writing book three, tracking down medical and science experts and begging them to help me. I'm truly so relieved it's over! :-P

    I think it's funny how many people hate Levi. There are a lot of Christian Levi's out there... LOL *wink*

    And I would love it if Zondervan added a proofreading stage for the author. Love. Ah well.

    1. I had absolutely no idea it wasn't technically a Christian book. Great book for outreach; hopefully it catches on with the general market. Thank you for that information!

      Sorry it was so much work to write, but I am NOT relieved it is over. Can you at least get that prequel out, please? ;)

      I tend to nitpick on my reviews (I guess because my background is critiquing pre-published work) was a very exciting, engaging, and well-written series despite any quibbles. Thank you for sharing it with us! <3

    2. Thanks, Julie. :-) Yeah... I'm not sure how well Zondervan is doing getting Blink books to the general market, but that was their plan.

      I will wait a little bit before asking my agent about the prequel. I'm currently working on a new fantasy that will keep me busy for a while. But I would really like to finish that prequel... ;-)

  5. It's good to see you on the tour again, Julie. I looked for you the last couple times and didn't see you.

    Levi's an interesting character. I thought he showed some growth in this book - admitting that Omar was right, bringing Jemma along, showing a better attitude toward the Safe Landers.

    At the same time, I can really understand why people wouldn't like him. To me, that fits in with the overall realism and complexity of the series. There are unlikable people on the right side.

    1. Thanks, Shannon! There are a lot of fantasy books I don't actually like, so I bowed out of reviewing those. (Which is funny because I write fantasy.) Glad to be back, though!

      "There are unlikable people on the right side." Great point! I like fictional characters to be "better" than real life, but there's a good case for showing more realism.


Do you have a question for us? Post in the comments or email!