“The Gender Game” (Kindle/Createspace/Bella Forrest Publishing, 416 pages, $3.99/Kindle, $13.99/Paperback) by Bella Forrest
Bella Forrest made a name for herself with her A Shade of Vampire series, but she reached an entirely new plateau with The Gender Game. This plateau she has placed herself on has marked her as untouchable by her peers in the self-publishing industry.
The Gender Game is a dystopian novel unlike any I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It has been touted as the next Divergent, but it is so much more than that. While Divergent focused on personality traits and our natures as humans, The Gender Game segregates its population between two nations, Patrius and Matrius. After a final cataclysmic war has decimated the Earth, what little is left of the population divides itself amongst the sexes. The women, confident that the war hungry, politically-minded men should no longer be in charge set out to establish their independent nation. With them, like-minded and non-aggressive men assist in establishing a monarchy opposite a patriarchy, controlled by aggressive, sometimes violent men and subservient women.
We enter the story as a young girl, Violet, spirits her marked brother, Tim, across the poisoned river separating the two nations. Having failed the test given to all Matrian-born boys between the age of eight and ten, Tim was deemed prospectively to be too violent and therefore destined for manual, slave-like labor in the northern mines. After all, Matrian Court wouldn’t want to propagate the Patrian society with further violent inclined individuals.
They’re caught mid-river by Wardens, the police of the time, and separated. After several years and many altercations, Violet has finally broken too many rules and must pay the ultimate price with her life. Granted a reprieve at the last minute, she is offered the opportunity to go undercover to Patrius and recover a stolen scientific item, known only to her as the silver egg.
Forced to marry to be able to enter the Patrius, Violet is in for quite a shock as the culture is uniquely different. She isn’t allowed to be outside without her husband or an appointed guardian. She can’t own or possess anything; rather she is the possession. As she struggles to bite her tongue and bide her time, she meets Viggo, a Patrian Warden and professional fighter. She’s drawn to him and his tragic past.
Before choosing to read this book, I read a couple of the reviews and was encouraged to see how highly it was rated. But none of the five-star reviews thoroughly prepared me for how phenomenal a story Bella Forrest captured in Violet’s tale. The story she weaved, the characters and their intricate relationships will leave you on the edge of your seat. The twist at the end was completely unexpected, and I love to be surprised by an author. I will be reading The Gender Secret (Book 2 in The Gender Game series.)