Pros: An intense and creative story
Cons: That one damn sexist stereotype
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
D.J. Butler’s Crecheling (The Buza System) (Volume 1) is actually quite a good book, despite one glaring flaw that I’m going to have to get off of my chest first. The author’s first name is listed just as an initial, and the point-of-view character is female, so my first assumption was that the author was female. Then I found that the two young women in the story are rivals, and particularly romantic rivals, and I was like, nope, must be a guy. Went to Amazon and looked at his author page, and yep, it’s a guy. Why must so many guys portray women as fiercely competitive with and unable to trust each other, particularly in love? Why must their young female characters always be on the arm of one man or another? (Please note I’m NOT saying the author is sexist–after all, he has some strong female characters in here. I just think he blundered unknowingly into a bad stereotype.)
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to track back for a moment to cover the setup. Dyan is a Crecheling, raised within the System to serve its purposes. It’s the day when she gets to become an Urbane, an adult. She witnesses a Hanging, finds out her Calling, and is sent to become “Blooded”–whatever that might mean. She and her four compatriots from the same Creche, as well as their Magister, Zahara, travel to a nearby settlement to pick up five children who have been Selected–another term that Dyan doesn’t know the meaning of. But soon Dyan discovers that being an adult within the System means doing some very unsavory things, and she isn’t sure she can bring herself to do them. She ends up on the run with two of the Selected, Jak and Eirig, while being chased down by her friend Shad (whom she had once thought she might make a Love Match with) and Cheela, who is also in love with Shad. Cheela leaps at the chance to get rid of her rival, and Dyan finds herself pitted against the people who used to be the closest thing she had to family.
That brings us to the good stuff. Butler really does give his characters–the one glaring exception being Cheela–a great deal of depth. Characters have emotional range and real personality. I think if he hadn’t been so set on that one stereotype he probably could have made Cheela less one-note as well (this is one reason why stereotypes suck–because they tend to circumscribe your writing in certain ways). Magister Zahara in particular is enigmatic and has some interesting effects on the story. Eirig is my favorite character with his sense of humor, and Cheela is my least favorite because she’s such a flimsy shrieking harpy of a character.
The action is quite good. The weapons are vicious, and all the Crechelings are skilled in their use. There are all sorts of violent potential ends awaiting the unwary once away from the System, and Butler is clever in getting the most out of them. There’s also plenty of good skulking around and use of tactics. I did have a little difficulty with the fact that a character lost most of an arm and it barely slowed him down (before getting any medical attention other than a tourniquet he still climbed a rope quite handily, and no one ever stopped him to comment on the fact that he’s newly missing half of his arm). There’s plenty of tension, and other than the one item above I really enjoyed this book, despite the fact that dystopias and Westerns aren’t my favorite genres. The fact that the author really made it about the characters kept things engaging and interesting.