Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey, Grand Central Pub., 2009.
One of the web sites I regularly scan for interesting books is National Public Radio (http://www.npr.org/sections/books/). In a recent entry, Girls Girls Girls: A Trio of Epic Adventures, Malinda Lo, author of two wonderful young adult fantasy novels, Ash and Huntress, mentioned this title, and I had to check it out.
The things that drew me in from Lo’s description were the genre — I have been a fan of dystopian fiction since reading Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time back in 1976; a strong female protagonist; and the promise of a lesbian love interest. Carey delivers on all three of these.
Loup Garron, whose father was a genetically engineered soldier on the run, lives in the Outpost, a walled and decaying city whose inhabitants are kept in by razor wire-topped walls, and kept under the control by the US Army, and by two strong warring families: the Garzas and the Salamancas who are both ultimately answerable to the army. The only way out is by defeating a soldier in a boxing match: it’s been promised that whoever does so will get two tickets to the North – but it’s never been accomplished.
Loup’s brother Tom is widely seen as a real contender, but when he loses his match due to an underhanded move on the part of the Army and dies as a result of the injuries he sustains, Loup determines to avenge him, even though she knows it means losing her freedom once the Army recognizes her as one of the genetically modified.
Falling in love, however, was not part of the plan. And Loup falls hard.
And mixed in to all this are the actions of the Santitos, a group of orphans who go about avenging wrongs and creating miracles in the name of the town’s patron saint: Santa Olivia.
Although it’s in the adult science fiction collection, Santa Olivia, is a great read for teens. A sequel, Saints Astray, is due this November.
Carey is also the author of two epic fantasy series: Kushiel’s Legacy and The Sundering, both for adult audiences.