STOPMOUTH AND HIS family know of no other life than the daily battle to survive. To live, they must hunt rival species, or negotiate flesh-trade with those who crave meat of the freshest human kind. It is a savage, desperate existence. And for Stopmouth, considered slowwitted hunt-fodder by his tribe, the future looks especially bleak. But then, on the day he is callously betrayed by his brother, a strange and beautiful woman falls from the sky. It is a moment that will change his destiny, and that of all humanity, forever. With echoes of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, and The Truman Show, Peadar Ó Guilín’s debut is an action—and idea-packed—blockbuster that will challenge your perceptions of humanity and leave you hungry for more.
The beginning of this one was, in my opionion, boring and slow, and the writing felt more like middle-grade than YA, and the story was flimsy. Stopmouth has a brother who’s a lying liar, supposedly a “great warrior” but really a pathetic coward, and Stopmouth–called that because of his stutter–is ignored even though his hunting skills outweigh his brother’s. Things pick up when a woman the Tribe can’t understand falls from the sky, but things don’t start to get truly interesting until some creatures show up and start killing all the humans. When Stopmouth is hurt in a hunt, Indrani, the woman from the sky, tends his wounds and he teaches her his language. She is a catalyst in this novel.
She is also a point of obsession for Stopmouth’s brother, Wallbreaker, which pisses off his wife, Mossheart, but Indrani has no interest. This creates some conflict between Stopmouth and Wallbreaker, which leads us to discover that Wallbreaker is a jerk who is willing to sacrifice his brother for a woman who doesn’t even like him. I grew to really hate Wallbreaker, and it all started when he sent Stopmouth off on an impossible quest, all because of Indrani. I rolled my eyes a lot.
I love Stopmouth though. You literally see his ideas change before your eyes. He grows up, learns to survive on his own, and becomes someone truly worthy of respect, unlike Wallbreaker. When Wallbreaker betrays Stopmouth in a huge way, Stopmouth leaves the village, something that is completely unheard of in his Tribe, and strikes out on his own, all while dealing with the idea that his older brother probably wishes Stopmouth were dead. Stopmouth grows like no other character I’ve seen in a YA novel, and it’s partly out of necessity. His world has changed so quickly and keeps changing too fast for him to keep up mentally. Indrani goes through a transformation as well, because this new world is familiar but also alien, and her prejudices are constantly challenged.
I didn’t realize that the different tribes in the novel were all cannibals. It didn’t occur to me, because Stopmouth’s tribe is presented as humans, while the others have different names (Hairbeasts, Bloodskins, etc). It becomes really apparent later on, however, and causes some discomfort and fighting later on in the story. Those from the Roof, like Indrani, believe that killing anything, animal or human, is murder and vile, so watching Indrani reconcile what she’s been taught with her body’s survival instinct is very interesting. It’s what made the novel for me, to be honest. Indrani was one of my favorite characters.
I liked this one, with conditions. The beginning was slow and I wasn’t sure what the point was, but once Stopmouth leaves the Tribe, the story picks up nicely. Rockface is an unexpected source of humor and awesomeness even while Indrani becomes distant and afraid. This is a dypstopia like none other, and it works well once it gets its ideas off the ground. I have the sequel to this one ready to go, and I will definitely be reviewing it here! I recommend this one, with reservations, to those who like male narrators, third person limited POV, cavemen and dystopia mixed into one.