Book 11 of 2015: Altar of Reality by Mara Valderran

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When sixteen-year-old Madeline suffers her first grand mal seizure, she finds herself in an unfamiliar reality, surrounded by strangers wearing familiar faces. Her best friend, Brandon, tells her that the world has fallen to chaos, the aftermath of World War III ten years ago. Madeline doesn’t remember anything from this life— especially not the explosion four years ago that killed her parents and landed her in a coma, or the Lord Commander; a zealot leader of the Southern Territories now searching for her.
Madeline barely has time to process everything before waking up to the life she’s always known. As soon as she dismisses it all as a strange and vivid dream, she finds herself back there once more. Unsure if she’s truly caught in the middle of a brewing rebellion, or teetering on the brink of insanity, she finds herself flipping between the two lives. Her heart becomes torn between two versions of the same boy and the lines between her realities begin to blur as she struggles to save her lives in both worlds.

I love this book. It’s true. I haven’t read a character quite like Madeline and I love her. She’s strong, opinionated, and doesn’t let her epilepsy prevent her from doing what she believes is right or trying to live a normal life. Despite her crazy love drama, which isn’t that important in the book and isn’t treated as a focal point, Madeline is amazing.

From the very beginning, the reader is catapulted into a world that is desolate. It’s hell. Mara Valderran pushes the reader and herione into a world that no one has experienced except in dystopian novels or movies. From there, we are forced to wonder if that is reality or is the normal, more like our world, the reality.

The writing is seamless. I didn’t find myself skipping through dialogue out of boredom or fussing over editing errors. Instead, I was instantly pulled into the story and remained there until the end. If there were any feelings that the book was taking to long, a little before the halfway point is where the story takes a turn.

There is a bit of romantic elements, but I didn’t really see that as the focal. Let me rephrase that, it is, but it isn’t. It is a catalyst for Madeline’s decisions, but she doesn’t realize it’s a catalyst until the end. You do see multiple romantic interests, but Madeline grows past that and doesn’t linger with the same feelings she had in the past. In short, I felt there was potential for Madeline’s happiness, but she needs to make the right decisions for it.

It is so hard to write a review for this book without giving away details. The characters are well thought out and complex. Who you meet in one universe isn’t the exact as their doppleganger in another universe. I like that AU Thomas was more empathetic than Thomas, that AU Brandon had serious cajones when Brandon is still learning his. And, Ana, oh Ana, I love this supporting character.

In the end, we are left with a cliffhanger and set up for a sequel. I am definitely going to read the sequel. I recommend this read 100%.

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