Under Dark Sky Law, by Tamara Boyens

Today, I’ll be reviewing Under Dark Sky Law, by Tamara Boyens. Here is the cover and blurb:

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Xero knows what she wants: absolute rule over Southern Arizona, a cure for the superbug that’s killing her best friend, and a decent bar of soap. Some are easier to get than others. At least, that’s what she thought. To save her friend, she needs antibiotics. Not just any antibiotics: Ketacillin. The dreaded Zaps are dissolving Trina’s lungs, and only the rare medication can save her. No problem: Xero is an expert smuggler. You want it, she ships it. As the ruler of the Tucson Exiles, she works as a double agent, hustling supplies for the government and pumping the desert full of designer drugs on the sly.

With whispers of a full revolution echoing through the desert, Xero questions her uneasy alliances with a shady Phoenix psychiatrist and a roving cyborg mercenary. Especially when Yuma goes kaboom, and her Ketacillin is destroyed along with it. Catastrophe looms, and she finds herself stuck in a complicated web spun from her biggest demons: money, germs, and drugs. As she’s sucked deeper into a net of convoluted schemes to dig up some Ketacillin, she would do anything for a simple hot shower. Who do you have to kill to get some soap? The body count climbs as Xero struggles to protect her friends and stay clean in a very dirty world.

TL;DR Review

Character and Dialogue 18 points
Setting and Description 19 points
Plot and Creativity 17 points
Technical Ability 20 points
Cover and Blurb 17 points
   
Overall 91 points
  • A very interesting, if not truly likeable main character.
  • Just enough detail about character appearance. Very good description of settings and events. Bloody, brutal action scenes.
  • Surprisingly convoluted plot that kept me guessing, despite a few jarring scene cuts.
  • Near-perfect technical ability, very nicely done.
  • Cover is well done, but doesn’t entirely fit the story. Blurb is interesting, but too long and gives away too much information.

Keep reading for the long review.

Character and Dialogue: 18 points

The main character of this book is Xero, and really, she’s more of an anti-hero than a hero. She’s foul-mouthed, morally gray, and tough, very tough. She’s used to being in charge and more than ready to back up her words with violence. It’s not always easy to like this kind of character and I found myself comparing my thoughts on Xero to those I had about Katniss when reading The Hunger Games: I don’t particularly want to be her friend, and probably wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time hanging out with her, but I absolutely want to be on her side.

As I mentioned above, Xero swears like a sailor. If you’re offended by a character cursing a blue streak, you probably won’t like her. Whether you do or don’t, it can’t be denied that she’s got a strong character shining throughout the book. The rest of the characters in the book are by no means delicate with their language, but Xero beats them all for sheer amount of curse words per sentence.

One of the things I found interesting in Under Dark ky Law is that while most of the characters swear and shout and argue a lot, they also don’t hide much from each other. When something is bothering one of them, they let people know—for the most part. There are some secrets kept and things hidden that relate directly to the plot and to Xero herself that it might have been better to put out in the open, but it fit the character to keep them hidden.

Setting and Description: 19 points

The book takes places in post-Apocalyptic Arizona, and it’s a pretty grim place. The author does an excellent job of describing the just how bad things are for most people living in this world. Clean water, food, soap, these kinds of things are hard to come by. Medicine is worth fighting over.

Under Dark Sky Law is a little light on character description details. The reader gets a basic idea of what Xero looks like, but not more. In this kind of setting, though, it doesn’t seem especially important to know every detail about each character’s appearance. Knowing the basics was enough.

I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, but this is the first one I’ve encountered that’s set in Arizona. As someone who lives in Arizona, I was immediately drawn in by the familiar names and descriptions of places and had no trouble picturing the scenes in my mind as I read.

As you might expect, this book is full of action and life-or-death moments. Xero does not live a sedate life, by any means. She fights to survive on what seems like a daily basis, and she fights dirty. You won’t find any beautifully-choreographed martial arts ballets in this book. The action scenes are brutal, visceral, and fast, filled with a lot of blood.

Plot and Creativity: 17 points

The plot of this book seems like it should be pretty straightforward, but just like in real life, nothing turns out to be as easy as Xero would like it to be. I’m happy to say that, while I mostly had no trouble following the story as it unfolded, I frequently had no idea where things were going to go next. There were a few places where the scene cut to another and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on for a page or two, but it always managed to catch me up without slowing the flow of the story down.

This isn’t a particularly deep book, and it’s definitely a fast read, but that being said, there are some important and universal themes in it, like loyalty, addiction, self-doubt, etc, that most people can relate to in one way or another. It’s not going to make you sit and think hard about it when you’ve finished, but it’s an enjoyable ride.

Technical Ability: 20 points

I didn’t find any technical issues within this book. Everything was cleanly edited and laid out. The point of view is clear and remains firmly inside Xero’s head throughout the book. I don’t have much to say here, really, since I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. Nice job.

Cover and Blurb: 17 points

The cover for Under Dark Sky Law is arresting and engaging. It definitely made me want to pick the book up. I do wish that the woman on the cover, clearly meant to be Xero, actually looked more like she is described in the book. Xero’s distinctive hair style is mentioned more than once in the story—it’s practically her prized possession, and it doesn’t look like what’s show on the cover. Aside from that, though, I really do like the cover.

The story’s blurb is, unfortunately, overly long and descriptive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly an interesting story, and I wanted to read the book after reading the blurb, but it gives away too many details that should have been discovered in the reading. To be honest, if the blurb decision had been up to me, I would’ve probably cut the entire second paragraph from it. The first paragraph gets the heavy lifting done, the second just throws in too much detail.

Overall score: 91 points. Despite a few shortcomings, Under Dark Sky Law is an excellent and exciting post-apocalyptic adventure. If you’re into this genre, I highly recommend it.


Find Tamara Boyens and her books here:

Amazon

Goodreads

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