Rating: 3.7 out of 5
I’ve been following Jason Letts’s Powerless series from the very beginning, when we were first introduced to Mira, the girl with no special talents in a world where the rest of the population is graced with super powers. I immediately found it a thoroughly entertaining and innocent ride, one that carried with it that sense of wonder and purity until the end of book 2 and into book 3, where events grew exponentially darker by the page.
So here we are at book four, The Submersion, one episode away from the climactic moments, and while there is still a lot of darkness, a bit of that purity has been retrieved.
The Submersion begins a short time after The Stasis ends. Mira, Vern, Chucky, and Aoi are sequestered in one Sunfighter labor camp while Will, Mary, and another character (who will go unnamed because I was shocked to see them and it would be a spoiler) are in another. They struggle through each day in quite depressing and depraved conditions, trying to keep their spirits up in a world that is trying to destroy them inch by painful inch.
This small band of survivors from Corey Outpost, the only ones who know how to offset the Warlord’s sway, are in constant peril. Their fellow townsfolk, those who’d been their friends and neighbors up until one book ago, have turned against them. Even Kevin and Jeana, Mira’s parents, are opposed to them, which helps to heighten the feeling of dismay. These two, through the first three books, were always points of light in an increasingly dark story; now that they’ve succumbed to the poisonous influence of the Warlord, their actions and words drip with venom. It makes for rather depressing reading, and this reviewer in particular wanted to bash them over the head just so I wouldn’t have to be reminded just how far the tone of the series has fallen.
The main plot of The Submersion has to do with the Sunfighters’ quest to build a giant ark, so the Warlord can sail across the nameless sea and bring his influence to those who might lurk on opposite shores. It also deals with the survival instincts of our young heroes, how they deal with day-to-day pain and attempt to foil the plans of the evil ones before it’s too late.
Now, I did enjoy the book. It has everything I’ve loved about the series from the start, from the characters constantly growing as individuals to the undercurrent of mystery surrounding why these people have been blessed with powers in the first place. Aoi, the strong girl who can absorb energy, and Chucky, the young man who sweats oil, in particular, have seen vast amounts of growth, to the point where they are the two best characters in the book, outshining even Mira.
I also enjoyed the darker elements, the ways the Sunfighters torture Mira and friends. It’s sadistic and cruel, and helps bring about an aura of hopelessness. And when the innocence begins to return, in the form of a birth that demonstrates the cyclical nature of life in all its wonder (and acts as a metaphor for always holding those who’ve passed close to your heart), I started to really get invested. I was so excited by what transpires afterward that I felt I should’ve been jumping for joy by the end of the book.
But I wasn’t…at least not completely. This is where we start to run into some of my problems with the narrative. While dialogue has never been a strength of this series, it’s often been easy to overlook. But in this instance, the clunkiness of the speaking parts tended to distract me from the story. There were also a couple instances of individuals acting completely out of character, seemingly just to ratchet up the tension, that didn’t strike me as authentic. And there were also certain aspects of the plan Mira comes up with that stifled me, being that they were over-explained and dwelled upon for much too long, especially in the planning process.
That being said, the beginning and climax worked wonderfully. It’s almost as if Letts was bored with the middle and simply trudged along, which is completely understandable in any series. But when it picks up its pace…man, does it pick up. The culmination of everything that happens leading up to said climax is wonderfully written, thrilling, and rang true with the tone of the series.
If only the whole book, like The Stasis, could’ve been like that.
That being said, The Submersion, while imperfect, is a necessary chapter in the long tale of Mira and her quest for self-discovery. Much of the time it hits the right notes, and I can sincerely say that the themes of friendship, family, perseverance, and the stalwartness of clinging on to hope are seriously important for any teen to come to understand, especially in this progressively me-first society. So pick it up, ingest the message, and look forward to the conclusion, because the way it’s set up promises that the next installment will be epic.
Plot - 8
Characters - 8
Voice - 8
Execution - 6
Personal Enjoyment – 7
Overall – 37/50 (3.7/5)
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