After the apocalyptic events of 2020, only 15% of the world's population remains. Those that are left must seek protection of the clans or live as nomads. Women are especially vulnerable, forced into subservient roles, living in households as multiple wives or serving as concubines and sometimes providing children, as a "consequence" for their actions. Shilo, born out of a consequence forced on her mother after she assists in an unsuccessful birth, is protected by her family for her unusual and highly desirable appearance. When the family stumbles into the Magnus clan lands, Shilo's mother offers herself as a concubine to the leader, who turns out to be a good hearted man, who gives Shilo and her family a safe haven and introduces her to military training and martial arts. Their capture also places Shilo into close proximity with the leader's son, Kain, and his brothers-in-arms, Haden and Elrik, and one of these men will become her loving husband, while the other will become obsessed with possessing her.
The author does a good job with apocalyptic terrain that has been well travelled by other writers and is very good at depicting the vulnerability of women, while also coming up with ways for them to overcome their limitations. Shilo is infuriatingly weak in the beginning of the book, but her character slowly and believably picks up steam. Like Katsa in Graceling, Shilo is also blessed with physical strength and martial arts training, and a desire to remain free from the manipulations of men; however, she doesn't seem to have the same sense of political purpose as Katsa, remaining focused on her personal conflicts. Despite that issue, the book picks up steam when Shilo joins the Mehdia clan where women hold all the political power and her personal growth and struggles make the book a bit more nuanced. The cliffhanger ending will also leave a reader begging for the next book in the series.
In the year 2220, only about 15% of Earth's population have survived and thrived after the Nuclear Disaster of 2020.
With the collapse of modern society, the population has regressed into eight clans.
Amongst these clans, an unusual girl grows from child to adult.
Raised on the run and in hiding, Shilo wants to be free of the expectations of women. But in a ruined world where anyone could be an enemy, only the radiation-twisted mutants are clearly identifiable. A fertile female is a precious treasure, and any lapse in caution can mean a loss of the freedom she longs for.
Training as hard as a soldier would, in order to free herself from social constraints, she finds herself faced with an offer from a new clan--an offer that provides her with what she desires. But her recently found independence brings discovery, and discovery brings two very different men from her past—and each of them is determined to claim her.
One is obsessed with owning her, the other desires her as the only person who can make him love again.