Looking at the blurb, I chose Phoenix Island for the conspiracy (god, I love those!) and because I wanted a fresh genre. Set in today’s world with a bit of sci-fi, Phoenix Island entrapped me from the first page. Told majorly from Carl’s narrative, it has teen delinquents being sent to a military style boot camp. At first, Carl and the other orphans (yes, all the delinquents are orphans) are fine with the system – since they were promised a clean slate when they reached 18 and a chance to join the military if they want. Opposed to a real prison, it sounded good – even if the Drill Sergeants bully them non-stop. But as time progresses, Carl finds out that they are not disciplining kids here, they are hand-picking them for a mercernary army called the Phoenix Force. Escape from the island is nearly impossible and with the kids being pushed into becoming savages, they don’t have any unity. It actually seems a bit like Nikita (the TV show) and while those at least had contact with the outside world, here they are isolated and the only home they know is the island. Carl is chosen for further enhancement and at first, he is happy for the chance but soon discovers what they really stand for. Coupled with that imposing ending, the plotline is highly engaging.
As a character, Carl is the heroic tough-guy type. A former boxing champion, he is used to order and structure while fighting. He fights with his mind and even though I first thought him to be some sort of jock (he doesn’t know Hogwarts???), he grew on me. The writing is lush with fight scenes and from Carl’s eyes, even the violence seems a bit fascinating. There is not just jabbing and hitting – it is like a dance to win over the opponent. His principles are challenged again and again and he stands up to all that is wrong, even sacrificing himself for it. And god, was it cruel to read everything that happened to him and Olivia. I must admit – the violence at times nauseated me, and the cruelty of the psychopathic Parker and that Decker & Co. really enraged me. It was beyond torture, what they did, and the body count is nothing is comparison to what happened to the living ones. Despair and hopelessness is the main atmosphere of the book and even with its fast pacing, you can’t escape it. Speaking of pacing, I loved how balanced the book was – it paid attention to detail at exactly the right points and things skimmed over when necessary. As I said before, there are plenty of fights which are described so intricately, you feel like you are in the scene.
Overall, a great book for people who love a good conspriracy theory, secret organizations and past-paced action. It should, however, be noted that it contains violence and cruelty so caution while reading.
Received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review