My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I know the author through our MFA program. Review contains non-specific spoilers.
From the very first chapter, Barlow shows the reader exactly what sort of world Pivot is going to introduce us to–a world of violence and blood, of evil and coldness. A world of mystery. A place where the unexplained lies on the other side of a closed door and the monster watching you in the dark is also your fiercest protector. This is the world in which Jack Harper lives.
Trained to kill from a very young age, raised as the ward and mentee of the enigmatic cult leader Cyrus, Jack’s world is balanced on the edge of a knife. Kept separate from the wider society she has always been told to fear, the duality of her existence is to claim her future with all the ruthlessness she possesses while also trusting her whole being to Cyrus’s guidance. Fighting against the darkness within and surrounded by threats she does not understand, Jack’s growth leads her to places she never expects to go as she comes to realize that the world is so much wider and more complex that she could have imagined. An uncertain world demands choices, and the repercussions of those choices can go much further than anyone expects.
Born human and shaped into a weapon, Jack’s complexity rests at the center of the story. Conflicted and dangerous, driven yet at times utterly lost, her fight to understand her place is both strange and familiar. Her coming of age–assassin, heir apparent to a following of immense power–is fantastic and terrifying. But her search for identity–her unbalanced self and powerful connection to the man who raised her–are intimately human struggles. Cyrus’s plans and Jack’s place in them are broad, but Jack as an individual is a powerful protagonist, at once frightening, sympathetic, and utterly compelling.
In weaving this tale of family and identity, violence and control, Barlow’s strong writing merges with powerful themes and a gripping story of horror both supernatural and chillingly real. As Jack wrestles with the lines between abuse and love, between humans and monsters, Pivot itself grows in power, revealing unexpected twists and bold insights that drive the story forward while also reflecting on what it means to take hold of your own future, shaping yourself rather than being shaped by those around you.
The story does not shy away from its darkness. It is as brutal and violent as its harshest characters, but with lyricism and humanity, Barlow shows us the bright glimmers in even the darkest places. And as Jack’s journey carries her into an uncertain future, the choices of a single character will have the potential to shape the lives of many. Death and renewal, darkness and light, ancient powers and inner strength–the lines are not fixed, and for Jack Harper, the future will be what she makes it. Barlow’s Pivot is a striking debut and a powerful beginning to a trilogy which promises great things still to come.
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars