Although you can often read that Bagicalupi’s “Drowned Cities“ are the sequel to “Ship Breaker“ I’d prefer to call it a companion. The story is set in the same dystopian future of America and the only character we meet again is Tool, the half man, half animal hybrid of dog, hyena, tiger, and a few other predators, designed to win wars. Apart from this, the story as well as the characters are completely different. That might be important for those who hope to meet Nailer again – not in this book! The advantage is, that you don’t have to read “Ship Breaker“ to be able to understand this new book.

The people in the story live in a world of war with scarce natural resources and extensive flooding of most parts of the planet due to climate change and global warming. The US are torn by a civil war and several factions are fighting for control. For a short time, the mega power China have tried to intervene and act as peacekeepers but in the end pulled out again and left the country behind in chaos. Now, soldiers of the different factions go where they please, steal, vandalize, rape, torture and murder – and all this in the name of patriotism and protection of the country.

The main characters are the teenager orphans Mahlia and Mouse. Mahlia is the daughter of a peacekeeper who abandoned her when he left the US. The girl ended up captured by a group of soldiers named the Army of God who tortured her by cutting off one of her hands. Mouse, whose parents had died in the war, rescued her and took her to a refugee camp. Since this time they have been very close friends who manage to stay out of the soldiers‘ path and stay alive.

This changes when one day they stumble across the half-man Tool who lies badly injured and almost dying in a swamp. Tool threatens that he will kill them if they don’t help him, so Mahlia runs to get meds to keep him alive. This isn’t easy because the soldiers are extremely afraid of Tool and want him dead. Mahlia is forced to use dirty tricks to get the wanted meds and with this she makes herself one of the most wanted enemies of the soldiers. Nothing seems to go right anymore, now, but Mahlia and Tool stay together and go on a wild ride through the Drowned Cities – sometimes as hunters and sometimes as prey.

I absolutely liked this book, not only because it is such a dark dystopia, but also because it displays so well how a war changes people, their morality and loyalty. Most of the soldiers described in the novel are teenagers, almost children, cruelly manipulated by some warlords. This is a major theme in this book that is so creepy and spine-chilling because it isn’t unbelievable at all. Something like that can even happen today in one of those countries where child soldiers are recruited by ruthless warlords.

I can only recommend reading this book because it is full of suspense, thought-provoking and transports realistic emotions. Make yourself ready for a lot of violence but this is really necessary to show the horror of war. Five stars!

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