Veles by P. J. Marie | Book Review
Published December 23rd, 2021 |Genre: Dystopian/ Dystopian Sci-Fi
I was the land. I was the air. I was the sea. I was all of it – everywhere – and as I inhaled then let the tormented sorrow screech from my lungs, the world buckled and broke beneath my feet.
I was burning alive…
And the world would burn with me.
A century after the Great Destruction that devastated civilization, Mizuki Altherr lives within a small village struggling to survive beneath the shadow of a great mountain. The Elders teach that it is home to Veles, god of the earth, who keeps them safe – but demands penance for humanity’s past indiscretions.
It’s a Gifting year…
The previous sacrifice tore Mizuki’s family apart and forever changed her world. Now she must face the terrible tradition again as her closest friend, Aiden, and his family are chosen to provide the next offering. In a desperate bid to end the cycle of violence and defy the Elders’ iron rule, Mizuki and Aiden set forth on a daring journey into the Wild – where together they discover a secret that shatters their understanding of the village and reveals the truth behind the horrors that left the world in ruin.
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Thank you to R & R Book Tours for providing me with a copy of Veles! I voluntarily leave this review.
Every decade a sacrifice is made to the God Veles, or as the elders like to call it, a gift. The last gifting year tore Mizuki’s family apart as her younger brother was selected. While she refuses to believe in the gifting, most of the village is terrified to give up the tradition. The elders have instilled in them a fear that the God Veles will punish them without sacrifice. When her best friend’s family is selected for gifting, she knows it will break them. But she’s older now, and willing to take risks to end this horrible tradition. Aiden and Mizuki dare to venture beyond their village, searching for answers and a way to save Aiden’s family from heartache.
While the politics of the village and the elders certainly can be deemed one of the key opposing forces against Mizuki and Aiden, the story also focuses on the land itself. As the two journey farther into the wilderness, they must face off against starving animals and declining weather. P.J. Marie weaves into the story the aftereffects of overburdening the land and its animals, by turning it against Mizuki and Aiden. It was refreshing to see characters struggle against more than just other humans. It solidified the ideas of what they were fighting for, even if at the time they didn’t realize how deep-rooted the problems were in their village.
Veles was a riveting and emotional tale. The way P.J. Marie dives into the thoughts and feelings of the characters is devastating. Mizuki remains the narrator for the majority of the tale, and everything she experiences is so completely described the reader feels it for themselves. Even as the narrative branches off later in the story and the perspective switches, the writing style remains steadfast at pulling every bit of emotion to the forefront. This tale will keep you engaged as the characters struggle to survive.
The abrupt change in perspective is a bit jarring though. There is a lot of information given upfront to the reader. It takes a little while for worldbuilding to reestablish the new narrative boundaries. There is also a heavy dose of news related tie-ins that give summaries of what is currently happening in the background of the story. This shift in the story also jumps to the past and explains how Mizuki and Aiden’s world became post-apocalyptic. But there was too much information. It detracted from Mizuki and Aiden’s story. The two characters were so well developed, and on a steady rise to their peak moments that would define their overall progress when it all shifted.
If you enjoy dystopian reads with a dose of mystery and apprehension give Veles a try. The characters are so well written. The story at times becomes complex and will twist in unexpected ways, keeping you guessing what will happen next.
She froze at the sound of Aiden’s voice, her brain instantly making sense of everything surrounding them as all the pieces and memories from the last two days fell into place. She had fallen asleep in Aiden’s arms, but he had not woken her up for night watch, and now he was sitting rigidly behind her and gripping her tight. She blinked again, her eyes rapidly searching the small space under the overhang and peering out into the darkness that lay beyond their small shelter. Only the faintest hint of light was visible; the sky was dark, with a grey drizzle still lingering from the storm the night before. She instinctively knew that something was wrong from the tense way he was holding her, but no matter how hard she squinted, she couldn’t see anything.
“What is it?” Mizuki whispered, her voice so low it was scarcely audible as she forced herself to remain still against Aiden’s frame.
“I heard something,” Aiden whispered, his hand leaving her side and slowly shifting to point off to the left just outside the shelter. “There.”
She looked to where he pointed but again saw nothing. She could barely make out the nearest trees and the thin trail of smoke coming from the remains of their fire. So she craned her head forward and listened. She could hear the wind as it shifted through the trees, faint and weak compared to the force of the gales the night before. She could hear the slow drips of water that fell to the ground off the shelter and the soft patter of light rain that continued to fall, but what struck her more than anything was the lack of other sounds.
“No birds,” she whispered faintly, feeling Aiden nod behind her. They both remained seated and still, their breaths puffing like little clouds in the cool morning air. She had woken up enough times after a storm to know that the birds always sang, even if it continued to rain. She could feel her heart starting to race, her panic starting to grow as she swallowed hard and willed her eyes to see into the dark. “What do we do?”
“We need to pack up,” Aiden whispered, his hands moving once again as he unwrapped his arm from around her waist and gently leaned forward to reach his calf. “Quietly – but as quickly as you can. Take this.”
She could see from the bottom of her gaze that he was undoing one of his knife holsters and transferring it to her leg, but she kept her eyes firmly locked to the place where Aiden had heard the noise. She remained entirely still as he worked until she felt the leather pull tight, and Aiden patted her calf twice to let her know he was done. Then they both shifted, Aiden sliding back and silently crawling to the small hole where they had stored their packs while Mizuki tentatively stood and began taking down their damp but no longer drenched clothes. Her tired legs ached beneath her as she carefully rolled each item and handed it to Aiden, who had moved back to her side. He stuffed everything into his pack, not caring what was what and keeping his eyes fixed on the darkness as the wind shuffled through the trees.
Her skin started to prickle with the distinct feeling of being watched as she slipped on her pack and glanced over to Aiden. He already had his pack on, and he was holding his bow ready with an arrow nocked. He glanced at her, his eyes gesturing down to the knife on her leg before he looked back out into the dark, grey drizzle. She reached down and took out the knife without question and tried not to think about how much it shook in her hand. She had to remind herself to breathe as Aiden shifted and motioned for her to follow. She held the blade near her hip, moving toward him and standing so close next to his side that there was barely an inch of space between them.
She followed him out from their cover, inching soundlessly to the edge of the overhang as her eyes rapidly scanned the darkness for movement. They had just stepped out into the misty rain when suddenly Aiden was shouting, and her heart was constricting in terror.
“GET BEHIND ME!” Aiden yelled, unleashing his arrow at the dark and silent form that lunged from the treeline on the left.
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About the Author
Engineer by trade, P. J. Marie has always been a storyteller at heart. Inspired by the captivating tales that her Ukrainian grandfather used to tell about settling the Canadian prairies, P. J. has always looked at life through a narrative lens.
An avid creator, P. J. loves the design process from start to finish and is always working on projects that meld the structured world of engineering with her creative passions. Whether through world-building, crafting cosplays, or building custom bookshelves for her ever-growing collection of novels, manga, and terrible monster movies, P. J. is always working on something.
In her spare time, she enjoys collecting new skills, drinking copious amounts of tea, and spending time with her family and adorable doggo.
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