Poison by Lan Chan

Poison

The Seeders came for my mother in the middle of the night. For months the Wanderer Rebellion had teetered on the edge of my awareness. As a ten-year-old, the notion of war and uprising was a remote construct for me. Besides, Papa was the Citadel’s most prominent genetic surgeon and I was the Wind Dancer. That alone should have protected us from the Citadel’s wrath.

I jolted awake in my bed screaming for Papa as footsteps thundered against the stone pavement. The scream caught in my throat as I slowly remembered Papa was in the Citadel. Stuck in the barely lucid state between sleep and alertness, I could almost pretend it was just a dream. Then my mother appeared at my bedroom door and her severe expression told me it was all too real.

In post-apocalyptic Australia, food production subsists only with the aid of the Seeders’ genetic manipulation. Wild plants are outlawed, and hoarding viable seeds is punishable by death. Only Seeder scientists, tucked away in the relative safety of the Citadel, have control of the resources and technologies keeping the population alive. And plants aren’t the only thing the geneticists have been experimenting with.

Against this backdrop, Rory’s childhood was played out on the circus stage: as the Wind Dancer, she performed dangerous aerial displays for the wealthy inhabitants of the Citadel. She’d always assumed that her unique position, plus her father’s knowledge, would protect her from the occasional violent purges in the regions. But when that assumption is proved wrong, Rory ends up running across the country by herself, struggling to survive with her brother, her dog, and some unexpected allies. If they can walk all the way to the Citadel, the stories say, the authorities will have to hear their plea for clemency on behalf of their region. And Rory has a couple of plant-based tricks up her sleeve that might help them survive the harsh environment.

Although she’s the narrator, I found it difficult to identify with Rory in the beginning. Her childhood has been so disjoined that she doesn’t really have any friends (although she clearly cares for her younger brother), and she’s deeply uncomfortable at being forced to team up with some other runaway children to stand a chance in the jungle. And because everything is changing so fast amid the challenging conditions of the journey, it’s hard to construct a mental image of what everyday Rory would be like. It’s only once she reaches the Citadel, and starts circus training again — as well as beginning to pick apart the lies and machinations of Seeder politics — that I really started to get a sense of who she is and what she stands for.

Poison is the first book in the Wind Dancer series, and is available on Amazon.

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