Julianna Baggott – Fuse

juliannabaggott-fuseAfter a young Wretch is abducted by the Dome and ‘cleansed’ of her fusings and imperfections, she is only able to repeat the Dome’s latest message: ‘We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.’ Willux will go to any lengths to get his son Partridge back, including murder. Partridge sacrifices himself and returns, in the hope of taking over the Dome from within, only to uncover more of his father’s chilling, dark secrets.

Outside the Dome, Pressia, Bradwell, and El Capitan are decoding the secrets from the past – tucked away in one of the Black Boxes – to uncover the truth that might set the wretches free of their fusings forever. Those fighting Willux will be pushed over boundaries, both land and sea, heart and mind, in their quest – further than they ever imagined.

A little over a year ago I started off my reading year with Julianna Baggott’s Pure, the first book in this trilogy. I found it a fantastic read, which engaged the reader on several levels, had some fabulous characters and world-building, and most importantly, was just a compelling story. Cue January 2013 and in a month’s time the sequel, Fuse, will be out and I get to review that as well. While I was very much looking forward to reading the book, because I was curious to see what would happen next, I was also a little hesitant. What if the story didn’t hold up or the book would suffer from Middle Book Syndrome? But the story did hold up and the book didn’t suffer from Middle Book Syndrome and I was just as drawn in by Fuse as I was by Pure.

Fuse reunites us with all the main characters from the previous book, with the points of view being shared by Pressia, Partridge, El Capitan, and Lyda. After the final events of Pure, they’ve split up, Partridge and Lyda going with the Mothers and Pressia going with El Capitan and Bradwell to create an army to take on the Dome. From there, they all embark on a journey, one to save those outside of the Dome and to discover who they really are. All of them show tremendous emotional growth in this second book in the series. They have to learn trust, vulnerability, and that love, unrequited or not, is a source of strength and hope, not necessarily a weakness. They all need to learn how to be confident in their abilities, though some more than others. As with Pure, the character that impressed me most in this regard was Lyda. She learns to rely on herself and discovers a competence in herself she’d never have believed possible while she still lived in the Dome. Similarly, El Capitan’s gradual softening towards and the acceptance of his unavoidable relationship with his brother Helmud was heart-warming and believable.

If in the last book we learned the reasons for the Detonations, in Fuse we see how far-reaching they actually were and how hard it will be to change life both in the Dome and outside of it. The story is split in three, following Pressia and her friends outside of the Dome, Lyda with the Mothers on the outside, and Partridge on the inside. All three of them are equally exciting, though Pressia’s in the most action-filled. Through Partridge’s viewpoint we get a better look at the Dome, its society, and at how nefarious his father truly is. While Fuse didn’t suffer from the usual Middle Book Syndrome symptoms, it is very much a middle book, in that it sets up things neatly to be resolved in the last book, at least as far as events in the Dome are concerned. Outside the Dome, however, is a completely different matter and I’m really curious to see how Baggott will get Pressia and her friends back to the Dome.

Baggott’s world-building deepens, providing the reader with even more history of the Before; history discovered contained in the Black Boxes found in the last book. I loved these time capsules, these ‘libraries of data’ as Bradwell calls them. One of them, Fignan, was one of my favourite things about the book. It’s surprising how easily such an unlikely subject as an animated Black Box anthropomorphises into something with awareness and feelings. His function in the book is fascinating; he is a combination of information source, puzzle box and semi-sentient pet. Even if at times he’s a rather convenient way to move along the plot, it doesn’t take away from the narrative. We also get glimpses of what is left of humanity in the rest of the world. We move past the direct environs of the Dome and the city close to it, we see what is left of DC and even across the Atlantic. The consequences of the Detonations seem to have been different across the world and I hope we’ll find out more about this in the last book in the trilogy.

I called Pure a ‘cracker of a read’ and Fuse is that and more. It’s a dense story, with a lot to unpack, but it’s never less than entertaining. Baggott has once again succeeded in making me care deeply for these characters and I really hope they’ll get a somewhat happy ending in Burn, even if it seems unlikely in the wreckage that is the world of the Pure trilogy. Fuse is set in a bleak and dangerous world, but at its core it is a story about hope, love and human resilience. The Pure trilogy is shaping up to be a stunning series and Fuse is a worthy sequel to Pure.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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