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Kingdom of the Hill Country

Kingdom of the Hill Country is a YA sci-fi follow up to Henry Melton’s Star Time, and the second in the Project Saga series.

Since this is a book two, I would recommend reading Star Time before reading this review. My review of Star Time is right here and I strongly encourage you to read it!

To avoid spoilers, I am hoping that you are only continuing to read this because you’ve already read Star Time. Yes? Okay…

It’s been eleven years since the supernova flare that caused the death and sickness of many on Earth and destroyed technology as we know it. Civilization has been trying to hang on, pockets of law and order and towns desperately hold on to the way of life and safety they’re used to.

But not everybody is so willing to rebuild society. There are violent, bloodthirsty, selfish bandits that are slowly but surely terrorizing the Texas Hill Country where Helen Black, the young, headstrong and independent horse doctor, resides. Her horses are in danger – and so are the women that the bandits prey on so cruelly…

As a survivor of the Star Time, Helen is not one to give up. Determined to save her people and her horses, she travels to ask for help in fighting the bandits – help the Austin City Guards seem reluctant to provide.

It’s not long, though, until James Fuller – the Mayor’s leadership-oriented son – realizes the extent of the danger the bandits pose – especially as one declares himself the “King” of the Hill Country. All they have to fight with, though, are broken weapons, small troops, and the haunting, cryptic words of the city’s fortune teller – who’s never been wrong.

Now that technology is no more, will Earth sink to the depths of the terrors of the Hunters Cult bandits, or persevere to create a new future?

Star Time was an excellent book (made my Stand-Out Books of 2011 post!) and I was sad I didn’t get a chance to reread it before jumping into Kingdom of the Hill Country. There were quite a few familiar names in this novel, but because of that lack of refreshing my mind earlier, it took me a while to remember “who was who” from before. I’d recommend reading Star Time over before this, if you’re able.

Kingdom of the Hill Country has an action-packed, scary, heartbreaking beginning. Actually, it’s that way all the way through! The rather haunting, gloomy start drips with the heavy weight of abilities – can you imagine seeing the future but having no way to change it?

This is a dystopia, in a sense. What I like, though, is that instead of everyone and everything being negative - there is a substantial majority of people that are hanging on to civilization and order, which I’ve always found to be far more realistic than everybody immediately becoming crazy and/or sadistic. It’s just that those who are determined to use others for their own benefit and bloodlust are throwing that tentative grip on humanity into chaos as they try to take control.

What we have here is definitely a darker novel from Henry Melton. It’s definitely not the happiest book – instead it’s disturbing, brutal, and unsettling – but I can see it as a vital step in an epic tale of world building. It’s very adventure oriented – and well-done – but didn’t provide that sci-fi/fantasy kick nearly as much as Star Time, or as many twists, which I can’t help but prefer. This is more the inevitable aftermath of what happened in Star Time – and I appreciate that. There is some paranormal plot twists that have that Henry Melton stamp of intelligence and ingenuity, just not as many as we spend most of the time embroiled in the fight for freedom and decency.

One other thing I’ll say is that I was excited to see Hodges since he flat-out fascinates me. I look forward to the next installment of the Project Saga and hopefully more time with him and the other more “otherworldly” elements.

I can’t help but hope there might be a little more of an element of fun in the next one though…

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