The Betrayal by Ashley Paulsen
A heady romance with a strong dash of adventure, Ashley Paulsen’s The Betrayal relates leading man Alex Moyer’s tale as he pursues, woos, and wins over the object of his obsessive affection, the irresistible Piper. Set in what seems to be a post-revolution USA in which only two autonomous towns appear to constitute the new order, the story unfolds in a world where Alex’s father has been transformed from a family man into a power-hungry dictator intent upon ruling over both Ukuthlia and neighboring Amandla. We see through Alex’s eyes as he navigates the emotional waters with Piper and works with a small group of dedicated comrades to fight for the independence of their towns.
The Betrayal is the follow-up to Paulsen’s first novel and appears to pick up right where the action must have left off; Paulsen takes it for very much for granted that we’re already familiar with Alex’s world upon opening the The Betrayal, so this second installment does not stand strongly on its own. The simplistic plot, though, ensures that a new reader is never in too deep, and the tone is immediately inviting; conversational and warm, but without sparkle. The narrative similarly wants for a splash of genuine magic and intrigue; for a story that situates itself in a sort of escapist adventure context, little of interest occurs. Characters tend to mull over the same thoughts and have the same conversations ad nauseam, and the relationships between them don’t develop or bring many varying shades of vice or virtue – or personality – to light. We never have a clear vision of what Paulsen’s post-apocalyptic world really is, either – how it looks, what it feels like, how it functions. The novel is surreally ignorant of the nature of so many key forces ostensibly at work: politics, power vacuums, dictatorships, military tactics, insurrection, and democracy all play key roles in the shaping of the narrative, but their real dynamics are missing. At the heart of this all, Paulsen’s dedication to the cheesier side of the romance – which really occupies the center stage throughout the length of the novel – with an unevolving insistence and relentlessness can be off-putting for many readers, but may also charm and comfort others with its kosher fantasy. Ultimately, this is a book of few surprises; from the opening pages, you can foresee the facile architecture of the story replicating itself into the distance toward the most obvious and convenient conclusions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – The Betrayal mixes ease and familiarity with beguiling genuineness and confidence in itself; the journey through Paulsen’s book is just breezy and pleasant enough to entice readers to crack open the first volume and find out how it all started.
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