Welcome to the November 27th review stop on the blog tour for Heresy by C. A. Campbell, organized by Silver Dagger Book Tours. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for excerpt spotlights, other reviews, guest posts by the author, and a giveaway! (More on that at the end of this post.)
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The Heretics Saga Book One
by C. A. Campbell
Published 7 November 2020
by Fearless Lit
Genre: YA Dystopian
Page Count: 474
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
In Arcadia, being different is HERESY.
Heresy is DEATH.
To survive, citizens must live, dress, and even love according to the United Council’s will. Their power is absolute—until a rebel bomb ignites at a national ceremony and unites the lives of three unlikely people.
When the bombing goes wrong, Nicolette Howell, a young heretic, finds herself alone and on the run, bearing secrets that Arcadia would kill for. When she’s captured, she must escape, but how can she, when her best chance lies with the son of her sworn enemy?
Driven by the execution of an innocent, Jacob Osgood, a United Councilor’s son, hunts for the truth about the heretic movement that Arcadia has hidden. But truth could cost him the one thing he cannot stand to lose: the girl who saved his life at the bombing.
Shiloh Haven, the orphaned daughter of heretics, is forced to become Arcadia’s spy in a sinister plot to destroy the heretic army. She faces a terrible choice: survive or risk everything to save the boy she might just love and the rebels who are her only chance of being free.
As their fates entwine, the three must answer an impossible question.
WHAT WOULD YOU DIE FOR?
The Elite stopped at the center of the stage and yanked the sack from her face, giving Shiloh her first real look at Hope. Shiloh inhaled sharply. With bones poking like knives from her ashen skin, Hope looked as though she might fade away. Her wild hair, that Shiloh had braided a thousand times, was gone.
Finally, Hope turned toward Shiloh and smiled. And that smile was still so beautifully, wonderfully her, that it seemed to erase the distance and the time between them. For a second, time turned back to two years ago, sitting at dinner at the Haven, mouthing words to each other and reading lips so Mother and the Aunts couldn’t hear what they were saying.
Hope’s mouth moved. “Shi.”
Shiloh took a step forward and then stopped herself. No emotion. Hope remained a heretic until she was Cleansed, and Shiloh had to pretend to reject her as such.
Instead, Shiloh mouthed. “I missed you.”
Councilor Osgood spoke. “Hope Haven, you committed heresy against Arcadia by possessing pages of a religious text and admitting to belief in the Christian god. This violated your duty to ensure the unity and peace of Arcadia, as well as betraying your loyalty to the United Council which should be above all others.”
Hope’s smile slipped, and a fire danced in her eyes. Two years in prison and that fire still blazed.
“Hope Haven, do you renounce your heresy and swear to live according to the duties of an Arcadian citizen? Will you pledge that there is no god; there is only us?”
Hope dragged her gaze away from Shiloh and looked out to the crowd. Her chin lifted high.
Shiloh swallowed. Please, Hope.
Hope turned her eyes back to Shiloh and mouthed, “I’m so sorry. I love you.”
Shiloh’s blood turned to ice.
The Councilor cleared his throat. “Hope Haven?”
Hope jerked her head to look the Councilor straight in the eyes.
Please, Shiloh wanted to scream. Please, don’t do this!
But she did. “No.”
The Councilor recoiled. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“I said no.”
The whole room caught its breath. The Councilor stared mutely. This was not how the script went.
Hope took advantage of the silence. “I will not abandon my beliefs. I am done, done conforming to Arcadia’s ways. You can send me back to the prison camp or you can kill me like you—”
“Shut up!” one of the Elite barked, driving his prod into Hope’s back. As the electrical current passed through her body, she jerked and fell to her knees.
Shiloh sprang forward, every inch of her screaming to come to Hope’s aid. A hand seized her wrist, yanking her back. She turned, and a pair of warm, brown eyes met her own.
“Don’t,” Jacob Osgood hissed, low enough that only she could hear. “They will kill you too.”
Shiloh whipped her hand away, heart pounding in her ears, but he was right. Rule #1. She stayed but jerked her eyes back to Hope, who remained on her knees, gasping through the pain.
“You can kill me,” Hope continued, “like you killed my parents, but you will not decide how I think or believe or who I love.”
Shut up. Shiloh wanted to scream. Hot tears stung the back of her eyes, but she didn’t dare let them fall. Please, just shut up.
But her voice only grew louder. “You wanted to create a world with no differences. Ha!”
The stick jammed into Hope’s side again. This time, she shrieked in pain, and the sound echoed in Shiloh’s bones.
“Enough!” the Councilor barked. “Get her out of here.”
The Elite seized Hope’s arms, and without waiting for her to get to her feet, dragged her toward the edge of the stage. Still, she wouldn’t stop. “You just decided which differences wouldn’t be acceptance. This isn’t acceptance. This is in—”
The Elite’s fist slammed in her throat, and the gasp that escaped from her mouth scraped like saw blades down Shiloh’s spine. Even Jacob Osgood shuddered. She didn’t speak after that, and the Elite got her to the steps.
This can’t…This can’t be happening!
Shiloh couldn’t be watching them take her away. Again. Within her, everything wailed in agony, but Shiloh closed her eyes, forcing herself to remain blank.
Rule #3. Rule #3. Breathe in, breathe out.
“Councilor Osgood,” a voice boomed from the audience. Councilor Beck, the only other Councilor present, surged to her feet from the front row. She spoke steadily, but her eyes crackled with flames. “You know the protocol for a refusal.”
The Elite froze. Hope landed, crumpled like a doll on the floor. Councilor Osgood stared at his fellow Councilor and then at the girl, with her face pressed to the wood, but didn’t speak.
Councilor Beck snorted and crossed her arms. “Elite #767, do your duty.”
The Elite nodded. He yanked Hope onto her knees and drew his gun from his hip.
Then Shiloh understood.
This was no longer a Cleansing.
This was an execution.
My Rating: 4 – 4.5 Stars
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I was sent a complimentary copy of Heresy by C. A. Campbell through Silver Dagger Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to both C. A. Campbell and Silver Dagger Book Tours for this opportunity! This has not swayed my opinion. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Heresy is the story of orphan teen Shiloh, the daughter of heretics executed for their crimes, who has been bullied into a spy role working for the government she fears to bring down the rebel heretics who seek to destroy it. Arcadia is what remains of America in this dystopian future, a blend of starkly frightening worlds like that of Orwell’s 1984 and more utopian (on the surface) worlds like that of Lowry’s The Giver. Plot twist we all hoped was coming: Shiloh sympathizes with the heretics and becomes a double agent. Will they survive or will the government win? What will Arcadia look like when Shiloh is done?
Campbell writes such empathetic, complex, and utterly relatable characters, and her skill with compelling plot is amazing as well. Whether you read for great characters or an amazing plot, this book has something for everyone and it will certainly keep you turning pages far into the wee hours of the morning as you promise yourself just one more. This is certainly not a unique subgenre or broad strokes premise to be working it, but nothing about Heresy felt tired or too familiar.
I caught a glimpse of another reviewer’s statement that they were shocked to hear this started out as a Harry Potter fanfic and how they couldn’t believe it because there’s no trace. If that’s true, I can’t believe it either! If this was indeed originally a fanfic, I would be more inclined to believe it was inspired by The Hunger Games or Maze Runner. That’s not to say either of those properties invented the pillars this novel’s plot stand on. In fact, what I love about the plot of Heresy, the youth drawn to the rebel’s cause, is what made Defenders of the Dead my favourite of the Jedi Apprentice books back in the late 90s, long before either of those other series ever crossed their editors’ desks. Every story has to start from something, and pretty much every base plot element has been done. Whatever the origins of Heresy may have been, it is its own story now, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.
I’ve also seen at least one reviewer lament that the romantic subplot was a little faster than they had hoped, but given that this is a YA category book with teenage characters in an oppressive state I think this element of the plot moved along exactly as quickly as it should have. Teens are impulsive, they love and fall out of love quickly, and not being allowed to do something is going to make them do it harder. Of course this romance was full of impulse, lust, and a little bit of YA trope list favourite “insta-love.” I would expect nothing less! The romance itself is sweet and I was absolutely rooting for them the whole way.
Despite my praise of how fresh and new this book feels, I feel compelled to note that the setting name “Arcadia” is not at all unique, has been used in dystopian before, has probably been used in YA dystopian before, and comes with a whole lot of connotation baggage from previous contemporary and classical uses. Arcadia is both a Greek province and a Greek concept of utopia. In terms of fiction it’s a popular name for magical realms in fantasy. It’s a canonical setting with both Dungeons and Dragons and the lesser known competitor game publisher White Wolf (particularly in the Changeling games, which were always my favourite.) There are so many other things to think about when hearing/reading “Arcadia” that it took me out of the story a little half the time it was mentioned in Heresy.
Overall I love this book and I’ll absolutely be keeping an eye out for the rest of the saga and more from this author in general! Read this book if you love YA, dystopian books, strong female characters, or page-turning plots full of intrigue.
C. A. Campbell hails from Kansas City (The Missouri side, if you please), where she shares her writing space with her husband and three ridiculous dogs. She splits her time between writing, saving tiny lives, and teaching students how not to kill people as a neonatal intensive care nurse and nurse educator. When she’s not working, she can be found (likely, in her pajamas) making things out of yarn, listening to a true crime podcast, or yelling at medical errors in television shows. Heresy is her debut novel.
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