Title: The Glass Arrow
Author: Kristen Simmons
Rating: 3.5 Stars
The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder. In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.The Glass Arrow is being lauded as a breath of fresh air in the dystopian genre--and, to some extent, I suppose it is. Yet, while Simmons latest is a vast improvement from her debut trilogy (in my opinion, at any rate), I found myself left wanting at the end. Simmons throws us into a futuristic world where the freedoms women have fought so hard to win are, once again, stripped away. In the world of The Glass Arrow, women are auctioned off for their beauty and virginity, the combination proving to be deadly as wealthy merchants, landowners, and politicians seek females in order to extend their line. Aya, our protagonist who has grown up in the wild, free from civilization's constraints, finds herself captured and awaiting to be auctioned. Determined to escape and return to her family, still somewhere in the wilderness, Aya rebels and finds herself thrown time and time again into solitary confinement.
In solitary confinement, Aya befriends Brax, a wolf pup, and Kiran, a Driver. The Drivers are a separate caste, almost, of people who are said to be born mute. Though Kiran doesn't speak, Aya finds herself slowly growing to trust him. As a heroine, Aya is an inspiration. Not only does she shut down, fight against, and correct the notions of the girls around her--beliefs that they hold about their worth as seen through a man's eyes--but she can hold her own both physically and mentally as well. While she's remarkably similar to kick-ass protagonists like Tris or Katniss who care for their family and freedom above all else, the originality of the realm she survives in sets her apart. Aya isn't a difficult character to like and neither is Kiran. Though the Drivers can be dangerous, and Aya suspects Kiran during their initial meetings, the friendship and trust that build between them extend to the reader as well. While Aya is an open book from the first page to the last, Simmons uncovers the layers to Kiran's character slowly, using his mute-ness to create a dynamic between himself and Aya that is wholly unique. Aya and Kiran's romance is subtle--a true back-burner--and though I yearned for more of it, it is nevertheless utterly satisfying.
The Glass Arrow possesses a scintillating plot line, one that shifts from different settings and introduces a fascinating host of secondary characters at every turn. I couldn't predict the outcome of many of the situations Aya was placed in but I found myself emotionally involved and rooting for her throughout. Yet--and perhaps this is because I attend an all-women's college--I wanted The Glass Arrow to take a stronger feminist stance. Aya is seemingly the only female in this world who wants her own rights and freedoms. Moreover, there is little to no political scheme throughout this story though I would love to see this set-up of this future explored in a manner that isn't traditionally dystopian. While Simmons has created a world full of strife, inequality, and injustice, she doesn't use this as a platform to remark on modern-day issues. Or, at any rate, not enough. I expected this to be a larger-than-life tale and though Aya and Kiran's journey is remarkable and touching, it also stays a little too safe, in my eyes. Simmons doesn't challenge her readers to think or question society--it's all quite black-and-white--and I find myself wondering why she chose such a potentially conflicting backdrop if she didn't intend to spark conversation.
Nevertheless, The Glass Arrow is a fast-paced, entertaining dystopia which is guaranteed to garner emotional attachment. While it didn't reach the full potential I hoped for, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Simmons returns to this world--much like the authors of These Broken Stars--to more carefully remark on other aspects of this universe. For those who believe the dystopian genre has run dry of ideas, The Glass Arrow will prove you wrong.