Review: “Landry Park” by Bethany Hagen

13479780Title: “Landry Park”

Author: Bethany Hagen

Publication Date: February 4, 2014 (Penguin – North America)

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA, AWESOME, Period Drama, Romance

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Downton Abbey meets The Selection in this dystopian tale of love and betrayal

In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won’t allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty – her family and the estate she loves dearly – and desire.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – an absolutely EXCELLENT new series!

Review: Dear readers, it’s no secret that I’m a huge “Downton Abbey” fan. So when I heard “Downton”. dystopia, and post-American future? I got very excited. I started dreaming up expectations. And I can happily say that these expectations were mostly met with this debut novel. However, I can also say that “The Selection” comparison? Not really relevant here. I think that Penguin was kind of trying to find something to make a pitch to the audience with (X meets Y in this Z tale!, etc). Hagen’s tale has me hankering for more, and I was so happy when I found out that there was going to be a sequel. If you’re looking for something futuristic yet with a strong period drama flavor, I highly, highly recommend “Landry Park” to wet your whistle.

A lot of other reviewers have compared this book to Diana Peterferund’s “For the Darkness Shows the Stars”, another book here beloved on the blog, and I can say that it’s a pretty accurate assessment. But it seems like since both books were more or less in production/editing around the same time, I have to chalk this up to the 10th monkey phenomenon (kids, wikipedia/google is your friend). Both have a caste system, ruled by the rich who won a previous war, and makes the current bottom class continue to pay for what their ancestors did hundreds of years before.  Is this a spoiler? Yes. But I guess I’m putting it out there because if you didn’t really like “For the Darkness”, you may not like “Landry Park”. Just kind of a warning, I guess.

However, what makes “Landry” stand out is not just the character building (though only two characters, I feel, doesn’t really get the full treatment they  deserved; more on that later) – especially of our MC, Madeline – but the very rich world and backstory that Hagen has built up. The world is definitely the richest part of this book, and also the most absorbing. Hagen definitely knows her sensory language and imagery, and it felt almost decadent to read. I devoured the book over a weekend trip to see family, most of it on the train there. I just couldn’t stop turning the pages. I nearly missed my stop – that’s how into it I was.

The characters: Madeline was the most detailed of the lot, though her ancestor who started it all got a pretty thorough backstory through the events that happen throughout the plot. Who was the least developed? Interestingly enough, the rest of the men (and the romantic interests, at that): David and Jude. I feel like David really needed more depth – yes, he’s a great guy with a bad rep, but at the same time, instead of bringing Jude in for a semi-love triangle, I feel like Hagen could have spent that energy developing David more. And Jude? Unfortunately, he feels more 2D than anything else. I’m hoping this gets fixed in the final version (since I read the ARC version) and/or in book 2, since it’s obvious Jude will be back in some form at that point. The plot and everything else flowed so well, that I feel that out of everything, the romantic interests in terms of character building? Hagen’s weakest area. She can improve, and when she does? It’s definitely going to be awesome.

I can definitely say, though – Madeline and David? Definitely had very strong echoes of Mary and Matthew from Seasons 1-2 and the season 2 Christmas Special for “Downton Abbey”. If that isn’t a hint as to how their relationship goes, I don’t know what is.

What needed more work aside from the development of the romantic interests? More on the Rootless and their backstory. Even though we spent a lot of time with them, I feel like we didn’t get enough on their history, which was more or less a huge teaser for book 2. And we had ample time to get it. I know that this book, since it’s Madeline (and thus the Gentry’s) POV that it’s going to lean more in the direction of the Gentry in terms of backstory/history. I’m glad we’re getting a second book, because we really need it to finish this entire mosaic that is the Landry/Gentry/Rootless history and backstory, and thus, the current time for Madeline and David.

Otherwise? This book is a gem, and definitely a favorite of 2014 so far. I can’t wait for book 2. “Landry Park” is out now in North America from Penguin, so be sure to check it out as soon as you can! Especially “Downton” fans – I think you’ll think this book is your cup of tea.

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