Book Review: Impostors by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Impostors 

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Genre: YA science fiction/post-apocalyptic fiction

Publication Date: September 11, 2018

Synopsis: Frey and Rafi are inseparable . . . but very few people have ever seen them together. This is because Frey is Rafi’s double, raised in the shadows of their rich father’s fortress. While Rafi has been taught to charm, Frey has been taught to kill. Frey only exists to protect her sister. There is no other part of her life. Frey has never been out in the world on her own – until her father sends her in Rafi’s place to act as collateral for a dangerous deal. Everyone thinks she’s her sister – but Col, the son of a rival leader, is starting to get close enough to tell the difference. As the stakes grow higher and higher, Frey must decide whether she can trust him – or anyone in her life.filligree page divider

While Goodreads lists Impostors as the first book in a series,  it is a spin-off from Westerfeld’s Uglies series and sometimes appropriately considered its fifth book. You don’t have to read the Uglies books first to understand Impostors, but there are some references to people, places, and situations from previous books. In my opinion, Impostors includes enough background information to make sense on its own.

When I was in 8th grade (about 10 years ago), Unglies was my introduction to dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. A brief glance at my Goodreads shelves will tell you that I was almost instantly hooked! I remember reading Uglies for the first time and becoming so intrigued with non-realistic fiction; up to this point I had mostly read historical fiction and contemporary, certainly no science fiction and very little fantasy.

This review isn’t of Uglies, however. Still, it is good to understand that background, because a reader’s background with a series will inevitably shape how they interact with later books. I loved all of the Uglies books except the fourth (Extras), so I was both excited and wary of Impostors. I brought it home from the library one night somewhat on a whim, and I’m starting to realize that the books I pick up on a whim often turn into the ones I enjoy most! Anyways, I devoured Impostors in just a few days, and I HIGHLY recommend it to any science fiction fan, especially if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction or if you enjoyed the Uglies series.

First of all (can I say ‘first of all’ this far into a post?), the premise is fascinating: a ruler has identical twin daughters, but raises them so that the world thinks there is only one. There is so much tension, possibility, and direction from the very beginning. There is no wandering around, slowly introducing characters or subtly laying the foundation for future action. Instead, we learn our protagonist quickly. Sometimes it can take a while to get to know a character, but Frey is not like that. I felt like I knew and mostly understood her right away, but that doesn’t mean she is boring or flat. She is a very reliable narrator, so while she has to question the truth and value of everything said to her, the reader does not have to wonder whether Frey is hiding anything. She tells it like it is, and isn’t afraid of being confronted.

Rafi, as a support character, is more difficult to get to know. We have to rely on what other characters say about her. Westerfeld lets the reader into the mind of the daughter who has been hidden from the world, allowing us to see what no one else besides her sister knows. Practically no one except Rafi even knows Frey exists, and those who unintentionally learn of her existence disappear. However, we learn more about her than Rafi, who interacts with crowds of people on a regular basis.

Frey is a pawn, tool, or weapon to most of the few people who know she exists. Finally, she has an opportunity to show her father and her country that she really does exist and that she is more powerful than they realize. She can’t survive on her own, however, and her actions leave Rafi in danger. While learning an entirely new way of life, Frey grapples with who to trust, how to be herself when she has always been trained to be someone else, and how to fulfill her life’s purpose. She also has some pretty epic adventures along the way.

Around Frey’s adventure Westerfeld weaves themes of ethics, technology, and diversity. This is an incredibly well-written return to the world created in Uglies, and while he continues to explore some topics addressed in earlier books, Impostors broadens the scope. I cannot say enough how interesting and enjoyable this book is! I just hope we don’t have to wait another twelve years for the next one. The ending isn’t exactly a cliffhanger, but it does leave a lot of questions. The story arc is not completed (obviously), and there are some twists in the final few chapters that have me eagerly waiting for resolution! Plus, the characters are enjoyable, so I look forward to reading (and learning) more about them. filligree page divider

Enjoying Impostors so much has made me want to go back and reread the entire Uglies series. I am so happy with this addition to the universe, but I feel like I would appreciate it more if I had read the other books more recently. Also, I remember not liking Extras at first because I expected it to continue right where Specials left off, but instead it focuses on completely new characters. Perhaps I would enjoy it more now, knowing somewhat where it goes.

Are you a fan of Scott Westerfeld’s books? If so, which of his series or books is your favorite? I think Impostors just became mine!

Until the next chapter,

Jana

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