The Essence of Aptitude (The Corpus Chronicles #1) by Esha Bajaj
I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Great Empire of Corpus thrives by the hand of a system that monitors their citizens from birth. Their inclination towards logic is calculated into a finite number that is branded onto their wrists on their ranking day at the age of sixteen, and they are separated into one of six colored categories.
Juliet and Gwendolyn Fenn spend the beginning of their lives bound back by the Grey status of their parents, residing at the utmost bottom of the hierarchy. On ranking day, agents of a mysterious unranked sect, the Conscience, snatch Juliet from her home. They take her to the Cerebrum, the capitol of the land and the dwelling place of the Metallic ranks, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Once there, Juliet is informed that she has not only been ranked as a Gold, but as the First, and will be groomed to be the crowned ruler of the nation.
Gwendolyn, ranked into Blue, only one step higher from her origins, soon becomes sick with resentment as the depths of her sister’s arrogance come to light. She decides to take matters into her own hands and joins the Fracture, an insurgent group lead by the notorious Tyus Zraa, who’s true colors Gwendolyn fails to discover until she is in too deep to turn around
I was excited by the premise but it felt the novel was just good, not great, not anything really different. There are so many novels about dystopian societies and oppression that it is very hard to stand out. This novel definitely had strong echoes of The Hunger Games and Divergent in its story line but did not live up to those incredibly high standards. That said, it was still an enjoyable debut novel. There is a good amount of action, intrigue, and dystopia that kept me reading.
The beginning was jarring, starting off with the abduction of Juliet. Such tactics are usually great for opening novels because it gives the reader a desire to know how the events with no context came to be. My reaction was less “I must know what is going on!” and more “…wait, what?”While I enjoyed the character of Gwendolyn I really hated her twin Juliet. Juliet is taken to become the First of the capital, having been screened and found that she has the most logical mind of the state. She immediately forgets about her family, settles in to a life of luxury and doesn’t look back. Her twin, Gwendolyn, was not ranked nearly so high. She continues to remain in her life of squalor, fighting to get by and eventually joining a resistance called the Fracture against the system of ranking.
My main problem with this novel is that it is not fleshed out enough. I like the concept, despite its similarities to other popular works. The Empire of Corpus needs more world building! There is a great foundation laid that can be highly improved upon. For example, I love that the empire is called Corpus as it sets up the metaphor for the body. The inner lands where the most highly ranked live is called the Cerebrum while the lands where the lower ranked people live are called the Heart. This idea of mind vs. heart is fascinating. Should the most logical rule without the interference of the hearts emotions? Do you need to follow your heart to truly know what is best for people? Although heavy handed the comparison of the empire to a body is a good foundation that just needs a bit more fleshing out, if you will pardon the pun.
- A good foundation which deserves to be expanded upon
- A good main character (albeit an irritating secondary)
- An enjoyable novel, kept me interested
- Ended on a cliffhanger that makes me what to know what happens next
The Not So Good
- Similar to other dystopian works
- Not fleshed out enough, needs more world building (only slightly more than 200 pages! Plenty of room to improve!)
- Some of the events happened too quickly in a manner that was not as realistic as it could have been
I still did enjoy this book. It is a debut novel from a young student that I found more interesting and engaging than other ARCs I have read from adults.