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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Those Beyond the Wall by Micaiah Johnson

I loved Johnson's first book set in this complex, futuristic, postapocalyptic world of conflicting classes and disparate privilege, but had difficulty feeling as connected to this story.

I was intrigued and fascinated with the layers of Micaiah Johnson's book The Space Between Worlds, which introduced both the multiverse and the complex character Cara who also appear in Those Beyond the Wall--in Cara's case, as a key player without a lot of page time.

In Ashtown, a gritty desert community, the Emperor rules with a ruthless hand and holds the ultimate power. The only person he can trust is Scales.

Scales is a mechanic, a fighter, and she keeps everyone on track.

But when Ashtown citizens start turning up dead, Scales must team up with a straitlaced Ashtown partner she despises and an abrupt, suspicious, but brilliant City scientist (who also appeared in The Space Between Worlds) in order to try to capture the killers.

Scales isn't sure who she can trust; she is challenged by grasping the time, place, and circumstances of her current existence; and she's keeping some pretty enormous secrets.

I loved the gender fluidity and acceptance; the appropriation of "Mr." as an honorific for all, regardless of gender; the scrappy underdogs who have adapted to difficulty; and the deep bonds between and weighty pasts of the characters.

Yet I couldn't help feeling jumbled. Factors that contributed to my inability to hold on to the story: characters who appear and are doppelgangers of known characters but are not actually the people themselves; various versions of reality that are known to exist, so nothing feels final; and the fact that Scales and her allies spend significant page time trying to figure out what's going on and not being sure.

I wasn't as drawn in by Scales's extended thoughts and reflections as I was by the action and dialogue in the story.

The end sections where events are clicking along, alliances are shifting and changing, and dramatic justice is being sought felt like the strongest and most compelling portion of the book for me.

I was fascinated-horrified by elements such as filed teeth, ruthless fighting styles, and the technology incorporated into everything.

I received a prepublication digital edition of this science fiction title courtesy of NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group--Ballantine.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Micaiah Johnson is also the author of The Space Between Worlds, a book I loved.

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