The Culling (The Torch Keeper #1) by Steven dos Santos
Who would you choose?
Lucian "Lucky" Spark has been recruited for training by the totalitarian government known as the Establishment. According to Establishment rules, if a recruit fails any level of the violent training competitions, a family member is brutally killed . . . and the recruit has to choose which one.
As the five recruits form uneasy alliances in the hellish wasteland that is the training ground, an undeniable attraction develops between Lucky and the rebellious Digory Tycho. But the rules of the training ensure that only one will survive--the strongest recruits receive accolades, wealth, and power while the weakest receive death. With Cole--Lucky's four-year-old brother--being held as "incentive," Lucky must marshal all his skills and use his wits to keep himself alive, no matter what the cost.
Publishes in US: March 8th 2013 by Flux
Series? Yes, the 1st in the Torch Keeper. No information on the next books
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The Culling is a very dark and gritty story. It has gore, it has emotions out the wazoo, it has characters put in impossible situations, forced to make choices that kids should never, ever have to make, and I could not take my eyes from the page.
While I liked the book and respected what Lucky was trying to do for his little brother, I was pretty confused at the beginning. When you have a world and a government that is different from ours now, there needs to be some explanation of what exactly is going on, and I didn't quite get that. New terms and phrases were flying around and it took me out of the story because I couldn't remember if any explanation who or what that person's function was and what it really meant. I picked it up as I went along though, and because there is action and some depth of the characters going on, I didn't give up on it.
It was hard getting to know the characters though because I knew that all of them wouldn't survive. They were learning to work as a team, but then they would remember that alliances really are not going to help them because their family members are on the line.
I have read a lot of dystopias, and I see a lot of the same threads as the Hunger Games. This is not saying that Steven hasn't put his own twists on it, because he had, I just couldn't help lining up the kids making alliances, the different districts that contributed different things. Again, not a criticism, just a statement.
Being in Lucky's head was a good change. I feel like I don't read too much with a male POV, unless it is dual perspective, so that is always a positive. Though, I did keep almost forgetting that he was a guy because of the attraction and tension between him and Digory. Nothing against the LGBT, but I am straight, and it is a hot guy, and from the first person, it puts me in Lucky's shoes, so therefore...
Oh, and the ending. It broke my heart. Nothing was actually definite but I don't know how they could pull off not breaking my heart.
Bottom Line: Dark and emotional story with a courageous main character who makes choices he should never have to.
Similar reads: Hunger Games, The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse, The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda, Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
My question to you, my lovely readers:
What would you do if you were in a position to have to chose which of your family members be killed?