Secondborn: Book Review

Cover image of the ‘Secondborn’ book by Amy A. Bartol.

I love stories set in a dystopian future where the protagonist(s) must break the societal chains holding them back and become a hero. Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol seemed like it’d fit into that mold.

Firstborns are the upper class. They rule the world. Secondborns are government property and essentially cannon-fodder in an ongoing war. Thirdborns are outlawed and killed. It’s similar to many other faction-based stories. Potentially pitting sibling against sibling seemed like an interesting take.

It was almost a cool concept until I realized early on that the population would be in a serious decline because only firstborns are allowed to bear offspring, one of whom would be a firstborn and the other a secondborn. After a few generations, there’d be few people left. Perhaps there was a good reason for this unsustainable society. I don’t know. The author never explained. Despite this serious flaw in how this world operates, I figured that it’s fiction. I could put aside this obvious foundational issue and see how I liked the story.

There’s a whole other faction system called Fates. Swords, Stars, and others. I can’t remember them all at this point.

Roselle St. Sismode comes from the most elite family in the Fate of Swords. The world has watched her grow from a small child until she reached adulthood when she shipped off to fight in the war with the other secondborn citizens. It’s through her eyes that we learn about this world. The problem? Roselle seemed like a kick-ass character that I’d enjoy growing with through this story. But, more often than not, it seems she’s just along for the ride with other characters, such as Hawthorne (her love interest), saving the day. I never felt that Roselle learned and grew as a person. Perhaps I was expecting more of her. And, maybe she gets there in Traitor Born, the second book in the series.

The romantic scenes were a bit awkward. But, I’m pretty forgiving on that front. It’s tough to write those scenes well. Given that Roselle’s character is fairly inexperienced having lived under the watchful eyes of the entire world, it sort of makes sense that it wouldn’t feel right. But, the chemistry wasn’t there. Hawthorne seemed little more than a love interest for the sake of having a hunky male in the story. A prop. Roselle could’ve just as easily stood on her own without him.

It’s not all complaints from me. Bartol excels at writing a fast-paced story at times. It was an easy read. It’d make for a fun afternoon adventure if you had little else to do. I like Bartol’s writing style well enough, which makes it tempting to see where the series progresses. I may pick up the second book for one such afternoon.

There’s enough twists and secrets to make me want to continue with the next book. The politics of how this society works would be interesting if the author dives more into that aspect of the world.

If you read Secondborn for pure entertainment and little more, you should enjoy this novel. This is for people who prefer young adult fiction.

⭐⭐/5 stars.