After the Passing, or the fall of the American government, a period of warlord rule was finally broken by the death of the last warlord and the establishment of the New Dawn government. Lives are heavily controlled, from food rations to intelligence tests for job placement. To avoid repeating the series of events that led to the breakdown of the previous government, archivists like psychic Lila Howell are sent to obtain "passings", or life stories, from the elderly who lived through the chaos. Susanne Newton, a legend in her own right, is Lila's latest assignment.
One of the interesting parts about this timeline is that the blandly stated chronological list is later fleshed out through Susanne's recording sessions. The "facts" themselves are dry, but her flashbacks lend them substance and feeling, allowing us to see what it was like living under near-starvation conditions and trying to establish a life for herself when few options were available. These scenes also serve the secondary purpose of offering insight into Susanne's character, allowing us to see her as a more than a cantankerous old woman.
Even more fascinating than this woman's life is the discordance between the New Dawn government and the rural homesteads. In many dystopian fantasies, controlling regimes are opposed by militant rebels or technological gurus. In Promise Kept, the source of trouble is the farms that are self-sustaining and have no need for New Dawn's offerings. The intricacies of this interplay are revealed as Lila tries to reconcile Susanne's stories with her upbringing in the government crèche. The internal conflict and eventual transformation remain my favorite aspect of this book.
Unfortunately, all is not sunshine and roses. The novel is heavily in need of editing, from redundancies within paragraphs to awkward, confusing sentences that had me wondering what the author was trying to say. Words were split unnecessarily (e.g. "straight forward" for "straightforward") and stilted dialogue made several passages painful to work through. There was even one instance in which Lila underwent an unintentional change in her last name.
The major plot twist was rather difficult to swallow given the world that the author had created up to that point. Equally befuddling was a sudden shift in Lila's personality at around the same time. In many ways, I felt as if I were suddenly reading a different book entirely. Luckily, some footing was regained by the end of the novel.
Promise Kept is a great story for fans of Robin Hood and the idea of the masses fighting a government that has grown too big for its britches. A word of warning, however: the entire book is written in Courier font, and I was unable to change it to something more aesthetically pleasing on my Kindle.
(Review copy provided by the author)