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The Clan of the Woodlands: The Innocent*

I Love This Series

When I read the first book of this series, The Bastard, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-written and complex world as well as characters I came to care about. I could tell by the hints given that there was much that I did not know about the world this author had created. So I was looking forward to this second book in the series, not only find out the protagonists’ story but to also get a deeper glimpse into this many-layered world.

The author has delivered another excellent story that gives a much wider window into the series’ world. In terms of character and story, this book flips the basics of the first story. Instead of having a woman go from the Districts to one of the clans, we have a clanswoman going to the Districts. At first, it seems like it’s almost meant to be a cultural exchange, for each side can learn more about the other; the Districts view clanspeople as almost feral and have believed and propagated lies about them for generations. In fact, in her very first moments in the Districts, Autumn faces prejudice against her people and their way of life time and time again in a way that even pierces her tough demeanor. However, Autumn is destined to become a part of much, much more.

As this is at its heart a romance, I would be remiss if I did not mention Max. Max is a scientist in the Districts, and he has discovered that male fertility in the Districts is dropping off at an alarming rate because of the special water they drink to control natural reproduction. In fact, the male population may be sterile in just a matter of years. He thinks he has a solution, creating a new version of the water that will knock out the genetic mutation that is harming male fertility while still tamping down attraction and desire (what the water is meant to do). His idea is shot down by a council member, but he determines to go ahead on his own and do a personal experiment—which could be of great detriment to his career if and when he is found out. His lab assistant figures out what he is doing and points out that he needs a control subject; she tells him that she believes the clanswoman could be the perfect one.

The book alternates between the perspectives of Autumn and Max. In Autumn’s sections, she shows herself to be of strong will and character, even if that is sorely tested by both her brother and her treatment in the Districts. Max is the perfect unreliable narrator; this is actually a hard thing to pull off, I think, so kudos to the author for doing a brilliant job at this. We don’t realize how unreliable he is until he meets Autumn. Their first meeting, oh, my gosh! Even though Ruth, his assistant, has warned him multiple times to be charming, it soon becomes apparent that he has absolutely no clue what that means. In fact, in their first scene together, Max reminds me of a bumbling Mr. Darcy. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, and I always have loved the bit in the book (or movie) where he insults Elizabeth at the assembly, but he doesn’t do it directly to her face and perhaps doesn’t even really know that she could be listening. Max, on the other hand, insults Autumn repeatedly to her face with rude questions, and he truly has no clue that he is being so insulting. There was at least one point where I literally laughed out loud at his absolute imbecility and social ineptness in knowing how to talk to anybody, let alone a woman. He goes so far as to think that she’s spoiled because of her reaction to him, not that he’s a completely insensitive jerk!

The author did an excellent job showing how their initially fractious relationship evolved into one of attraction. It seemed to grow naturally, given their characters and circumstances. Just like in the first book, too, the author is able to weave in universal themes about prejudice, authority, power, the true meaning of love that is beyond physical, reproductive rights, and personal freedom into the story that seems organic; she has made the themes the lifeblood of the characters in this harsh world.

I really could go on and on about this book, as I genuinely did enjoy it. Instead, I will let what I’ve said above stand and describe the book’s story no more. Suffice to say that much lies in store for both Autumn and Max, which will take them places that they have no clue about when their stories start. The book did have some issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. I think the author needed to read this book out loud to herself or have Word do it for her so she could have caught many of the dropped or wrong words.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series. I feel this one ripped the roof off the greater social unrest that was only hinted at in the first book, and I am looking forward to the next story to see the shading that it can add to this complex world.