There was a fair amount of buzz last year about the first book in Eve Kenin’s (she also writes as Eve Silver) series set in a post-Apocalyptic world, Driven, which also fared well in our annual reader poll. As a result, I checked it out. While it wasn’t a keeper for me, I felt the series had potential, so requested to review book number two, Hidden. Unfortunately, my reaction was tepid.
Tatiana is a rare creation in a Strange New World; she was genetically enhanced with special capabilities she can tap into in order to heal faster, protect herself, and remain impervious to the harsh climate of the Northern Waste. She also has the ability to receive thoughts and images from people around her. She doesn’t know if this is a gift or a curse.
Tatiana’s childhood was no childhood at all. She and her siblings were raised underground in a lab by a computer. So Tatiana knows a great deal of factual information and very little about how to interact with real people. She also knows pain. A scientist named Gavin Ward acquired her and used her in his attempts to shape a better humanity. Essentially he tortured her and took samples of her genetic material to tinker with. One of the results, Tatiana has heard, is an engineered plague that has the potential to wipe out mankind. Her mission is to find the lab where that plague was created and destroy both. The only clue she has is a name: Tolliver. That’s not much to go on, but Tatiana is made, literally made, for this sort of quest.
At the beginning of Tatiana’s search at the out-of-the-way Abbott’s General Store, she comes across an enigma – a man in the rags of a rebel. He intrigues her, but she has no time for him and trusts no one in this execution of her mission. When this man, Tristan, shows up again, in entirely different circumstances, Tatiana feels compelled to help him, and, in offering help, she becomes inextricably intertwined with his mission – one surprisingly similar to her own.
The strengths and weaknesses of Hidden are much the same as those of Driven. Kenin’s world-building is again well done, though not terribly expanded upon in this second effort. The Northern Waste is a bitter cold, dark, and frightening place, full of humans who are no longer very human. Civilization has broken down, and survival of the fittest – or meanest – is the only law. Since many, if not most of the rules are different, the reader is propelled along with the characters into new territory, turning the pages to discover what can and will happen.
Kenin’s characterization isn’t as strong. Tatiana is a kick-ass heroine, but her back story is mostly angst. Yet as she is not experienced with feeling things, this angst seems strangely depersonalized. Tristan has an interesting back story as well, but Kenin doesn’t draw on it, except to explain why he is the way he is.
The story takes place over a short period of time, which makes Tristan and Tatiana’s feelings for each other seem a bit rushed and, eventually, overwrought. The conflict between them, revealed late in the book, is swept under the rug as well – unimpressive, given Tatiana’s very strong feelings about the matter. Tatiana also forms meaningful friendships with Tristan’s friends over the course of hours. The book’s villain is much like that of Driven – black mustachioed, with a penchant for torture and control. Yawn.
Hidden strong points lie in the exterior, not interior conflict. When the book focuses on the plague, it’s very readable. When its focus becomes Tatiana and Tristan or the eviiil Gavin Ward, it falters. However, I had a very similar reaction to Kenin’s earlier book, which many readers loved. So if you liked that one, I’d give this one a try as well. I believe I’m done with this series, though.