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The Culling | Steven dos Santos | Review


“Lucian "Lucky" Spark has been recruited for training by the totalitarian government known as the Establishment. According to Establishment rules, if a recruit fails any level of the violent training competitions, a family member is brutally killed . . . and the recruit has to choose which one. As the five recruits form uneasy alliances in the hellish wasteland that is the training ground, an undeniable attraction develops between Lucky and the rebellious Digory Tycho. But the rules of the training ensure that only one will survive--the strongest recruits receive accolades, wealth, and power while the weakest receive death. With Cole--Lucky's four-year-old brother--being held as "incentive," Lucky must marshal all his skills and use his wits to keep himself alive, no matter what the cost.” Source 

The Culling is the first book in a new YA dystopian series which takes place in a society where five teens are forced to compete against each other in a series of trials. In this particular world the stakes are high, each candidate also has two ‘incentives’ who are family members or friends that mean the most to them. 

You may be thinking to yourselves that this setup sounds a little familiar and whether intentional on the part of the author or not there are various similarities to one of the most popular books of the genre; The Hunger Games. Amongst other things Lucky’s reasons for his determination seem to revolve around his younger brother much like Katniss’ need to protect Prim, not to mention the potential romance between competitors in the trials just like in The Hunger Games arena. 

As is often the case when starting a new series the first time I picked up the book I was disappointed, the story didn’t captivate me right from the beginning and it wasn’t until a little later that I began to enjoy it more. The actual trials themselves kick in around two thirds of the way through and that’s when the story becomes much more engaging as the writing is fast-paced to match the action. The trials themselves were truly horrible and gripping with so much at stake for each candidate. The substance of each trial varied and the ideas were creative and interesting; something which is difficult to achieve in such an overcrowded genre. Of course with every task came the dreaded moment where the loser would have to select which of their incentives would be killed and the various methods of doing so could be fairly graphic. The book has its fair share of twists and turns throughout although none of them are particularly surprising. 

Aside from Lucky and Digory we also get to know the other three candidates as well as an important character from Lucky’s past. There was a lot of information to take in not just about each character but also the world itself within which I found the locations confusing at times. While I didn’t love any of the characters I did find it particularly interesting to find out a bit more about each of their backgrounds which was mainly achieved through the reveals of who their incentives were and their choices when faced with which one would be executed. 

I would recommend this book for fans of The Maze Runner series and of course The Hunger Games as you will most likely enjoy The Culling too, although in my personal opinion it isn’t as good as either of those. I will be picking up the second book in the series as I’m intrigued to find out where the plot was headed as part of a bigger picture rather than just the initial trials. 

There were a few things here and there that didn’t make sense to me and I did find the setting difficult to get used to but overall I’m glad I read The Culling. If the characters had been more developed and the first third of the book stronger then I would have enjoyed it a lot more but as it stands I think Steven dos Santos’ Young Adult debut deserves a 3/5 

*Review of an eARC c/o Netgalley: Although I received a copy of this book free of charge this has not influenced my opinion and my review, as always, is 100% honest.

This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here.
Image via Goodreads

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