Imposters by Scott Westerfeld
I would like to thank Mary from Scholastic for a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review
Publisher – Scholastic
Price - £7.99
Published – Out Now
NB – this story is set in the universe of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series – but this doesn’t feel an essential pre-read based on content
Frey and Rafi are inseparable…two edges of the same knife. But Frey’s very existence is a secret.
Frey is Rafi’s twin sister - and her body double. While Rafi was raised to be the perfect daughter, Frey has been taught to kill. Her only purpose is to protect her sister – to sacrifice herself if she must.
When her father sends Frey in Rafi’s place as collateral in a precarious deal, she becomes the perfect imposter. But Col, the son of a rival leader, is getting close enough to spot the killer inside her. Can Frey trust him with the truth and risk becoming her own person?
Part of growing up is deciding who you are and what do you want. Steeping out of the family circle, school, the workplaces and understanding our society means that as we become adults our exposure to the world changes us and we start to realise we don’t have to be exactly what our parents may have suggested be the best way forward. In Scott Westerfeld’s YA novel Imposters a new series starts exploring rebellion not just against the family but against dictatorship
Frey is a secret and if you find out about her there is a good chance you will die. Her father is the ruthless ruler of Shreve and his first daughter Rafi is the gorgeous, well dressed witty socialite being groomed for leadership. Frey though is the secret twin sister and their father decided far better that Frey gets taught to fight and protect his firstborn. She is never seen publicly unless disguised as Rafi – practical, rarely talks to strangers and always ready for battle. Then Shreve needs to form an alliance for steel with the Palofox family in Victoria - they’ve asked for Rafi to be a hostage while their father’s troops are on the land. He agrees but this time it’s Frey in disguise who is sent. Frey has to learn to be Rafi to a level she’s not previously been exposes; chatty, parties and well dressed but then she discovers her father has bigger plans and Frey needs to work out what she wants for a change.
For me Frey is the key factor in this book. The story is told in first person, so we get everything from Frey’s point of view, and she is a fascinating character with a clear arc of development. It’s important though to see how she fits into the wider narrative. Her father is all about business, people think he’s crazy, but he always knows what he wants, hates to feel weak and very protective about his favourite daughter – yes hard to avoid a comparison with that President. And indeed, Rafi is the glamourous face of the regime (the comparison stands) but Frey is much more loyal to her sister – there is a genuine bond between the to and a fear of their father who monitors his children and their interactions constantly. The chance to stay in Victoria gives Frey a chance for some freedom out of the shadows and puts her outside her comfort zone – she would much rather go knife fighting rather than to a party and speak French to be trendy. Happily, she meets the Palofox heir Col who feels to be a kindred spirit (although he thinks she’s Rafi) and the two bond in their shared pursuits and wish to avoid their wider family’s games. But of course, this all goes wrong.
I think I found the first half of the story much stronger as watching Frey on the one hand have to be loyal to ger family and then work out what she feels about the people who live outside her father’s rule was interesting and has an element of a political thriller as well as an awakening as to other ays to live e.g. without constant surveillance. While Frey is reserved and shy, she is politically astute as to what is going on, she’s only awkward not just a muscle-bound warrior.
This glimpse of a world with ruling cities and families with a lot of environment al collapses the world is recovering from feels very plausible and that really kept my attention. Where for me the novel became too routine was the second half when things go seriously wrong for Frey and Col. To avoid spoiling too much for a variety of reasons Col and Frey find themselves on the run outside the cities and the weird creatures and other forces they encounter there while well done feel a lot more what I would expect in a YA future-based thriller and at this point the relationship with Col and Frey’s desire to then save her sister all felt a bit too predictable and I could not connect with the two emotionally. What I think was missing was a bit more chance to breathe their relationship and explore the wider world instead of a lot of running and being chased. However, the finale managed to subvert my expectations and sets up an intriguing second instalment (review coming soon)
Imposters is a very well crafted first part in a new series. With Frey and her family there is a clear message about what political forces are being explored and our reactions to those forces, but I think I need to see how the wider tale ends before I can say how successful it is. It’s promising and has a compelling lead so if you fancy an intelligent YA action thriller this should be entertaining.