In the nation of Plexus, you need three things to survive and make something of yourself: be born male; be able to acquire a wife by the age of sixteen; and be a Citysin under the nation’s Codex. Families are forbidden to raise their daughters at home; they must give them to numerous state-run orphanages that double as wife brokers for those who can afford to purchase a girl. Girls who are not purchased as a wife by their fifteenth birthday are tossed into the streets alone without certification, Citysinship, or any way to make a living. Young Sevara grew up in Orphanage 127, and she is nearing her fifteenth birthday; however, this fiery, passionate young woman has a special gift to inspire others, and she may be a catalyst to change the face of a nation.
Damien Wampler wrote the Sevara: Dawn of Hope novel as a prequel to his graphic novel series featuring the immortal, titular character who fights to protect women and bring peace and kindness to various worlds. It explores her background as a human who gains immortality as a gift for her commitment to bettering humanity. The book also presents a highly dysfunctional and misogynistic society, where women are literally objects, and those without certifications have no rights under the current laws. Obviously, this world is in great need of change, and Sevara is touted as just the individual to make it happen.
Overall, Sevara is a fascinating read about a dynamic young woman and a strange, new world. Piecing together all the details about Plexus, the war with the Chinnai, and Sevara’s personal story fascinated me. Also, the number of female characters and the obvious message about women’s power is a positive one; however, the amount of information crammed into 260-plus pages was so immense, it sometimes felt a little overwhelming. I didn’t just get the world from Sevara’s perspective or even a few characters through an omnipotent narrator; almost every important cast member had a section of the book written from his or her point of view. While very interesting, I had a hard time grasping a coherent plot thread as the story jumped between characters. Wampler clearly could have written full stories on each of his ideas, which could be a great start for additional works. The narrative could be tightened a little to flow more easily though.
Another issue with Sevara is that some of the relationships bothered me. Leif and Sevara were an odd mismatch, but I almost believed they would work things out mid-book; however, Leif’s character arc killed any liking I had for him as he tried to grow, and I ended up feeling he was kind of a jerk. Victoria’s arranged marriage didn’t bother me, because it fit for a society where women do not have agency, but her later development came out of left field. There was nothing to support her or Jack’s feelings for one another. Readers were expected to believe it solely because the text said they did; however, on a non-romantic level, Leif’s complicated relationship with his father rang very true. While the young man despises some of his father’s choices, he still loves the man who raised him, so I bought into Leif’s need to support his father as Plexian society spirals out of control.
Lastly, I didn’t get a good sense of the immortals’ interest in Sevara until midway through the book. Because I’ve read the graphic novels, I knew that the title character had to gain special abilities at some point in her origin story. Since she didn’t have any innate ones at the beginning, I assumed she must acquire them throughout the course of the story; however, the first introduction of the non-human cast was a little vague, and I was unclear on why they showed up at all. It wasn’t until Alta steps in to save Sevara’s life that I realized these mystical strangers would be influential in the girl’s life.
All of these critiques are fairly small, though, when weighing the messages about female power, the strength of kindness, and the magic of hope. Sevara starts to the change her world without any special abilities, just through her personality and force of her convictions. She is a prime example of how one person can alter the course of history. If you want something with a strong female character who is a positive role model, Sevara: Dawn of Hope definitely should be on the list! It’s not a perfect work, but it has heart, just like its main character.
4 Bolo Sticks out of 5