Desert Isle Keeper
Edge of Control
When I discovered Megan Crane’s Edge series a few months ago, I fell instantly in love. Dystopian stories can be hit-or-miss for me; I like them but I get tired of reading about characters who feel like the entire world is against them. This series stands out because it is different; it puts a supportive community in a world characterized by its uncertainty and danger. There may be an element of government control and potential war in Ms. Crane’s books, but it’s balanced out by the Raiders, a group of men (and women) who are alpha, dominant, unforgiving raider warriors who stand for each other as much as they stand against the government. Edge of Control takes two Raiders and plops them (undercover) into the thick of the compliants, making for a very interesting culture clash and an engrossing read.
For those new to the series, Edge of Control is set after a time when great storms battered the earth. The mainland, which seems to be what’s left of North America, is populated by compliants. These people are generally weak, their lives uncertain and they are led by the Church’s teachings. They only have sex during winter marriages, where people marry for the winter in an attempt to procreate. Raiders live on islands to the East, and are completely non-compliant. They embrace sex, their Brotherhood is made up of elite warriors ready to do battle, and they live in clans, supporting each other in a way compliants do not. The two cultures could not be more different, which is a key point in the story.
Eiryn and Riordan are two Raider Brothers who have been dancing around each other for ages. They had a scorching affair one summer before Eiryn had become a Brother, but Riordan effectively ended it when he hurt Eiryn with some awful comments, acting like she meant nothing to him. Riordan did this deliberately. He’s chosen to sabotage almost everything good in his life outside of being a warrior, exhibiting a behavior too often seen in romance heroes and heroines. This is due to his guilt over a past mistake (unintentionally causing his family’s deaths in a storm). In the years since that summer, he’s never quite gotten over Eiryn, but has managed to keep up the appearance of not caring.
Eiryn, for her part, has more important things to deal with than her continuing lust for Riordan. At the end of the last book, she found out her brother Wulfe (the Raider king) had ordered her father to be crippled years ago. Feeling uncertain and betrayed, she’s allowed herself to grow lax in her post as Wulfe’s guard, putting her position in the Brotherhood at risk. Poor Eiryn has a sea of emotions rioting within her, but no outlet for them. Being a female Brother, she feels keenly the need to maintain a tough exterior. It wears on her though, so when the opportunity arises to do some reconnaissance on the mainland without the rest of the Brotherhood, she jumps at it. Even knowing that Riordan will be her only partner for months and that they’ll present themselves as a couple taking part in a winter marriage, Eiryn chooses to leave her comfort zone in hopes that some time posing as a compliant will help get the mess in her head straightened out.
Just as dystopian stories are something I rarely pick up, so are road-trip romances, because being on the road with someone is an experience outside of normal life, and often creates an artificial closeness. In real life you might see this if you’ve ever gone traveling with friendly acquaintances – for the duration of the trip you’re thick as thieves, but when you return home your relationship goes back to what it was before. In romance novels, people often fall in love when they’re forced into each other’s company and made to rely only on each other, but I often have doubts as to the survival of those relationships in everyday life. That’s not the case at all here, for two main reasons. First is that Eiryn and Riordan already know and love each other. While it’s obvious that having to rely solely on each other makes them grow closer, the truth is that they never quite grew apart, and operating as two lone raiders amongst the whole of compliant society only forces them to acknowledge that.
The other reason the book is successful is Eiryn. I had assumed, initially, that Riordan would be the one working through his issues on this trip, given that he harbors such guilt and self-loathing. Although he does do this, it’s really Eiryn who uses the time away from the Brotherhood to heal some old wounds. Ever since becoming a Brother she’s been very conscious that she must always appear strong, or else risk others doubting her abilities. In order to maintain this facade Eiryn rejects all emotion, which she sees as weak. Life as a compliant woman, though, allows her the opportunity to cry, to let her emotions run free. I loved watching her slowly come to the realization that a good cry, particularly when enjoyed in private, never weakened anyone. It felt a lot like what I went through years ago, realizing I would never be able to avoid tears when they threatened. Pretending to be compliant allows Eiryn (and Riordan) to let go of all other pretenses and reconnect.
There’s a lot to love about Edge of Control. Aside from interesting world building, Ms. Crane has managed to create complex characters who grow and mature naturally over the course of the story. In particular, Eiryn and her struggle to embrace her emotions and accept them as part of what made her strong pushed this into DIK status for me. Based on this book alone, I can’t wait to see what will come next in the series.