Brought to you by OBS reviewer Marie-Reine
*Beware of possible Spoilers*
In Jane Dougherty’s first installment of the Green Woman trilogy, The Dark Citadel, she introduces the reader to an Orwellian city state, Providence. The last remaining city after a nuclear holocaust, it sits rotting beneath a dome while outside, toxic fallout and barren sands storm against the protective barrier. Deborah, the child of a convicted father and a sinful mother, rebels against the abuse she suffers because of her scandalous origins. But in order to escape this oppressive regime, she must face what lies beyond Providence, where darkness and evil have flourished since civilization’s fall. She possesses the power—unknown to herself—to destroy the evil that has choked the world for so long.
Even if the homage is not conscious on the author’s part, the totalitarian society of Providence is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. Doughterty does not add much to the tropes of the Orwellian genre. She incorporates them with her use of the post-apocalyptic genre, much like many other young adult novels. Inside the dome, everything is controlled and the dogma of a revised past keeps the ruling class subservient to the established order. Ironically, the Ignorants are the ones who understand the evil that threatens Providence and they are ready to rally themselves to their messianic leader, the Green Woman. The two main characters introduced in The Dark Citadel come from the higher class but both have been rejected by it—Deborah, because of her lineage and rebellion, and Zachariah, because he dared remember and seek out his birth mother. Both characters then encounter Ignorants—or Dananns, as they call themselves—who rescue and guide them in their escape from Providence.
Dougherty also weaves a third genre in her story: fantasy. The evil that threatens the world is one of fallen angels, demons, hellish wolves and other dark creatures ruled over by the supreme demon, a devil figure named Abaddon. There is also good in the form of Deborah and the magical powers she gains by “remembering” the world prior to its destruction. There is the Green Woman, a good witch and her armies. But the plethora of genres and the varied creatures introduced seem to overload the narrative rather than add complexity. Dougherty strikes a dissonant chord with the overabundance of genres, and does not incorporate the fantasy elements as well as the other two genres. And since she moves further from the Orwellian and post-apocalyptic genres as her characters physically move farther from Providence, this uneven shift in genres is a significant weakness in the story. Also, the juggling that takes places between genres overshadows the characters, in the end making them rather bland and forgettable.
This book is an interesting read, with some dysfunctions with the unharmonious melding of the genres it explores. There is hope that since this is only the first book in the trilogy, more focus can be given in future volumes to the characters themselves and developing them.