Cover Image: Subject Twenty-One

Subject Twenty-One

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Subject Twenty-One covers a lot of bases- climate change, socio-economic status, human rights- in a familiar but compelling YA-branded package. In a future where gene editing has allowed some humans to acquire superhuman traits, 'Sapiens'- humans without any gene enhancements- are forced to shoulder the burden of their ancestors' crimes. The history of climate change is taught in the same way we teach the Holocaust today, and climate reparations restrict the amount of possessions a 'Sap' can own, where they can live and how far they can travel. While they leave school at 14 to labour in factories, the ruling classes work to restore the planet's animal population from the fossil record. 'Subject 21' is a Neanderthal, raised in isolation from the rest of his species. The novel begins when Elle, a teenage factory worker, accepts a job as his companion. Elle quickly bonds with Subject 21 and befriends some of her 'betters', including Georgina (a beautiful Doctor) and Samuel (a shy curator with skills like super-strength and speed) This causes rifts between Elle and her father (who carries trauma from a long-ago Sapiens revolt) and her best friend, who wants Elle to join the next generation's rebellion. 
There are a lot of familiar tropes here- the YA heroine with hidden gifts finds herself in a love-quadrangle and eventually uncovers the truth that's been hidden from the masses. That said, I enjoyed the author's world-building- the climate reparations scheme was fascinating and I loved the descriptions of the different zoo habitats. I will be ordering a copy for my Library's touring Climate Change display and will look out for the sequel too!
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I really enjoyed this. I was hooked from the beginning and the story kept my attention throughout. I loved the relationship between the characters and the setting was fantastic. I can't wait to read the second book!
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Subject Twenty-One by A.E. Warren was very good indeed. It pushed all my interest buttons. A well paced read which kept me interested right until the end and an end which has been left open. I hope there is a sequel. Subject Twenty-One is a very interesting concept and to be honest believable in this day an age of scientific exploration. For the best? You decide.
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Bringing back extinct hominids and Neanderthals in particular has been a theme explored by more than one SF writer. These range from the short stories of Isaac Asimov (“The Ugly Little Boy”) and L Sprague de Camp (“The Gnarly Man”) through to more modern novels such as David Brin’s EXISTENCE and HOMINID by Robert J Sawyer.  A E Warren’s debut novel, SUBJECT TWENTY-ONE is the latest addition.
Set in a future Earth, the human survivors of a global pandemic are limited to four cities or “Bases”. Elise is a member of the “lowest order” of humans, the Sapiens. They are strictly controlled via food and medical access by the less numerous Medius and the “highest” group, the Potiors. The difference in status is defined by their access to gene enhancements for their children – Sapiens get none unless lucky enough to win a monthly lottery, Medius can chose three for their new baby, and Potiors can have ten. Outside the Bases it is supposedly toxic and dangerous after years of devastation from pollution, habitat destruction and disease. The blame for all of this is laid firmly on the unreconstructed Sapiens who must “make amends” for their ancestors’ bad behaviour. They also cannot be trusted with responsibility due to their “inferior” abilities. 
	However, Elise is given a rare opportunity when she gets a job at the prestigious Museum of Evolution to be a Companion to one of a few Neanderthals now restored from extinction. The restoration of previously extinct lifeforms is one of the major projects of the Potiors, and that of restoring hominids such as Neanderthals is particularly prestigious. However, she starts to sympathise with her charge, “Subject Twenty-One” and realise how they are both subject to the arbitrary whims of the ruling group. Events develop that are a threat to both of them and she must make drastic choices to save herself, her family and the intelligent Neanderthals.
	The plot of the book is quite enjoyable and moves at a reasonable pace with some exciting chases, escapes etc. although the ending felt a bit rushed. It is an easy, quick read with a linear narrative, told mainly from Elise’s point of view. That in itself is not bad but it means there is less insight into the other characters. In particular, this made me feel the villains especially lacked depth and nuance, and come across as one-dimensional rather than real, flawed human beings. While I would probably read the subsequent books in the series, in essence this is not something that stands out from the crowd for me
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Originally self-published as The Museum of Second Chances before being re-released by Del Rey, A.E. Warren’s debut novel Subject Twenty One – book one in the Tomorrow’s Ancestors series – is a post-apocalyptic tale of repopulation, genetic engineering and tightly controlled societal structures. Elise is a Sapien, one of the lowest class of humans, condemned to forever be paying reparations for the actions of previous generations in devastating the Earth. Keen to escape a life of tedium, she takes a job at the Museum of Evolution as the companion to Twenty One (otherwise known as Kit), one of a handful of Neanderthals returned from extinction through the marvels of genetic engineering. With her own secrets to keep, Elise has to be careful how she goes, however the more she gets to know Kit, the more she learns about the real history of her world and her place within it.

Warren’s post-pandemic world is based around disparate outposts of humanity, a rigid caste hierarchy, and oppression dressed up as necessity, all of which is familiarly post-apocalyptic, but taken together feels fresh and interesting. The genetic engineering angle fits perfectly into the setting, populating the museum’s exhibits with once-extinct species and providing a worryingly believable explanation for the three classes of humans – Sapiens, Medius and Potiors – and the way they interact. As Sapiens, Elise and her family belong to the lowest caste, restricted in virtually every aspect of life, looked down upon by the ambitious Medius with their relatively low level genetic enhancements, and virtually ignored by the powerful and distant Potiors. Though taught that the Sapiens were the cause of all the planet’s woes and should be content with their lowly place in society, Elise’s own unusual abilities (no spoilers) and general unwillingness to accept things as the way they’ve always been means it’s almost inevitable that she should find herself curious about different experiences and in conflict with the status quo.

As the sole viewpoint character the focus is very much on Elise, but as the book progresses it widens out from a tale of a girl trying to find her own identity to a broader story encompassing an entire population’s burden of oppression, and the desire for freedom felt by not just Elise and the other Sapiens but also Neanderthal Kit. There’s a nice balance between scenes in the Museum, seeing Elise get to know Kit and interact with other Sapiens, a handful of Medius and a single aloof Potior, and her regular visits back home with her family, which help break things up and introduce that broader perspective on what’s happening. She’s an instantly engaging character, fastidiously careful to keep her own secrets while at the same time determined to find a new path in life, but it’s in her dealings with Kit that she really comes alive. The idea of repopulating neanderthals is deeply compelling both from a scientific and narrative perspective, but while Kit is very different to Elise and the other Sapiens in some ways, in others he’s remarkably human and very relatable.

Both the setting and the story itself are cleverly established and consistently entertaining, brought to life by some excellent characters – not just Elise and Kit, but also her family and some of her fellow Museum workers, including a range of Medius with very different attitudes. There’s a really interesting dynamic established between the Sapiens and Medius, which means it’s a bit of a shame that the Potiors don’t get anything like as much development, and Fintorian – the head of the Museum – comes across as a touch one dimensional. Hopefully there will be more about the Potiors in the next book. With much of the first half taken up establishing the core ideas and characters, the second half sometimes feels a little rushed, but by the time the climactic finale comes around it all comes together nicely, leaving plenty of questions about this world for future books to answer, but providing a satisfying conclusion to this particular story. Pacy, characterful and imaginative, it’s a book that should have good crossover appeal between YA and adult readers, and the start of a series with a lot of promise.
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3.5 Stars
I always get worried when books use genetics and evolution as the cornerstones of their plot. This is because I have a PhD in those subjects and can easily spot when the author hasn't done there research, or has miss-interpreted what they have read and it really effects my enjoyment of some books. Luckily A. E. Warren has kept the science simple in Subject Twenty One and covers the scientific basis for the worldbuilding in a concise and interesting manor, using their artistic license in very believable and well informed way. 

The worldbuilding is really interesting, set in a dystopian future where a pandemic and climate crisis drove the human population down, causing the remaining population to collect into four "bases" but also drive some to follow a line of genetic modification to elevate them above others. The unmodified find themselves at the lowest rung paying for the perceived damage *Homo sapiens* had caused. Genetics had also progressed to the point of being able to recreate long extinct species, one of these being *Homo sapiens* close relative the Neanderthal. I really enjoyed this premise. I liked that all the bases were named after the amino acids that make up DNA the structuring of the genetic augmentations. We got a lot of insight into how the society functioned through all the little descriptive details. I also really liked the descriptions of the museum of extinction and how they had reintroduced species of both plants and animals. 

Subject Twenty-one or Kit, was a fantastic character, gracefully skirting and developing on ideas that have been hypothesised about how the Neanderthals lived and how they interacted with us their genetic cousins. Elise out main character is also a really interesting character to follow. I also liked how we focused more of Elise learning about her ancestors and how early man survived compared to what they had become. It was nice to have the interaction across the levels from what is deemed as a primitive species to humans as they are now to what they might become. The inclusion of Elise's deaf brother also adds not only some awesome rep, the frequent use of sign language throughout the book, but also great juxtaposition between those that perceive him to have a genetic defect compared to those that are genetically modified. 

The story itself if fast paced and fun. It takes a little bit to get going and get into the world but it is really well written and I found myself loving the characters, there were a few moments that I was on the brink of tears. I just found this really entertaining and was so glad it didn't live up to my fears.
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'Subject Twenty One’ is a dystopian novel with an intriguing premise. The dystopian genre dominated the YA scene for several years, with The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner series’ possibly the best known examples, but since then it’s been a tough genre to crack. ‘Subject Twenty One’ is simply written, but puts a fresh spin on older ideas, creating an engaging and highly readable story. First published by Locutions Press in 2018 as ‘The Museum of Second Chances’, it’s now being reissued under a new name by Del Rey.

Elise is a Sapien – a member of the lowest order of humanity and held responsible for the damage inflicted on Earth by previous generations. Sapiens are given limited education and kept in poverty to atone for their ancestors’ crimes. When Elise is offered a job at the Museum of Evolution, she sees a chance to build a better life. Her task is to be a companion to one of the recently resurrected Neanderthals, Twenty-One. However, the job comes with risks – at the Museum, she’ll be under greater scrutiny than she ever has been before, putting her and her family’s secrets at risk. Plus, the more time she spends with Twenty-One, the more she starts to realise how little there is keeping her from a cage of her own.

The world Warren creates is excellent. Set only a few hundred years in the future, its changed enormously. The advent of genetic engineering has led to a race of superhumans, Homo Potiors, who run society. All skilled jobs are performed by Homo Medius – another race of genetically engineered humans, inferior to the Potiors but far superior to the un-engineered Homo Sapiens. Homo Sapiens was responsible for the destruction of the planet and extinction of untold species, and therefore cannot be trusted. All of humanity lives on four highly controlled bases – each named after a component of DNA – with the rest of the world given over to rewilding, allowing Earth to heal. Its a simple yet effective concept. As a Sapien, Elise is taught very little about her world, and its fascinating learning about evolutionary concepts and the structure of her world with her – and then seeing how Potior-taught truths are challenged.

Elise makes a very likeable protagonist. Her father is a sceptic, convinced that the Potior and Medius are going to move against the Sapiens, and raised her to be prepared for war and survival. Elise, in contrast, is more trusting and genial – but also lonely, as most of those around her see her family as freaks. She also has a younger brother who’s Deaf, which is seen by society as a marker her family has poor genetics. Elise is friendly and caring, always looking out for her family – especially her brother – but her friendliness means she easily forms attachments, and as a companion the biggest no-no is becoming attached to her Neanderthal. Its interesting seeing how Elise grapples with her warring responsibilities – how her loyalty to her family starts to chafe against her loyalty to her new friends at the Museum.

The supporting cast is also excellent. Samuel and Georgina, a Homo Medius scientist and doctor respectively, are two highlights – both are always nice to Elise despite her designation, but there’s always an underlying uneasiness of how much the different classes can truly trust each other. Twenty-One, the Neanderthal, is brilliantly written – he’s lived all his life in a cage, alone except for his companion, and the way this has affected his psyche is both horrible and fascinating.

The science is kept to a minimum – Elise has never been allowed much of an education, so she barely understands concepts like evolution, let alone how the Museum is bringing back extinct animals. It makes this a highly accessible read. The language is also very simple. It took me some time to get into the book because of this – at times it felt over-simplistic – but the story is fast-paced and the content engaging, and after a while the language starts to suit the story. Its a little unclear if this is aimed at the YA or adult audience, but given the more basic language and Elise’s age, I’d put this in the YA bracket.

Overall, ‘Subject Twenty One’ is a solid addition to the dystopian genre, with elements of Jurassic Park crossed with a standard YA dystopia. Recommended for fans of both the former, plus those who enjoy a fast-paced story and explorations of human ethics.
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I really liked this book. Right from the start the story drew me in and as the story progressed and we go to know Elise more the more respect and love for her I had. She was such a great character, trying to balance what she felt was right against the oppressive set of rules she had to live under as she was terrified of the consequences if she was ‘noticed’.

In this dystopian world, homo sapiens have been nearly wiped out by some kind of water born plague, in an effort to save themselves all rules on genetic engineering had been relaxed leading to the creation of two super human classes Medius and Potiors. Medius are somewhat enhanced but Potiors are properly superhuman and almost invincible.

In the society we enter both superhuman classes keep a tight control over the remaining unmodified human population demanding ‘repatriations’ for the damage humans had previously done to the planet. They also created Museums of Evolution where previously extinct species have been returned to life and kept in an advanced zoo style environment.

It is here Elise manages to secure a job as companion to Neanderthal number Twenty One. The museums are having problems with their Neanderthal – they don’t seem to do well kept individually but the museum is too scared to let them live in groups together so they employ humans to spend time with them instead.

The clever way the author let you know which group people belonged to without having to explicitly tell you every time – unmodified Sapiens have a 2 syllable name like Elise, Medius have 3 syllables and Potiors 4. Its such a little thing but it let the story flow so much better than having to interrupt the narrative to tell us that information all the time.

As the story unwinds we learn more about the museum and the way unmodified Sapiens have to live with Elise becoming increasingly aware of the precarious circumstances she is living in. The supporting cast were great too especially Samuel was instantly liked when we met him.

All in all a really good story and I can’t wait for the next book (thankfully not a long wait it is being published alongside Subject Twenty One) to see where it goes from here.

With thanks to Del Rey for a copy of the book in exchange for honest review.
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I enjoyed Subject Twenty-One when I read it. I thought the premise was interesting, and I liked the way it was written. I found it a bit predictable in parts, but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the story as a while. I would definitely be interested in reading more in the series, especially considering the events leading up to the end of the book.
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Subject Twenty One is the first book in A.E Warren’s series Tomorrow’s Ancestors. Tagged as ‘Jurassic Park meets Sapiens’ I was quick to sign up to this Book Blog Tour and get my hands on a copy to read and review. Subject Twenty One was gifted to me by the publisher Del Rey and is set to be released on 1st July … along with book two The Hidden Base which I will be reading and reviewing as soon as it plonks through my letter box!

A.E Warren self published these books previously (under different titles) and I’m so glad they got picked up! Reading Subject Twenty One was easy, the story gripped me completely right from the beginning and it kept my attention all the way through. I loved how much research had been undertaken in writing this book but how this didn’t make it ever feel overwhelming or complicated. Warren has created a fascinating class system with various quirks and categories, all while weaving a heartfelt narrative.

For me, the connections between the characters was key. Elise is hired to be a companion to Twenty One, a Neanderthal who has been brought to life in order to be an exhibit in a museum as well as be part of an experimental program. She leaves her family to do this job and in turn discovers more about the other classes and the events in history which brought about their current situation. In the museum, Elise encounters a Potior, the highest class of being but also other Sapiens, like herself. By the end of the book, Elise has brought together an interesting group who work really well together and I was fully invested in them all.

As a setting, the museum was amazing, I could imagine it very clearly - I’d very much like to visit it! It definitely gave off Jurassic Park vibes but there is nothing wrong with that at all, I loved it! The genetic engineering aspect was one that I personally felt could have been explored in more depth but I also think that doing so would have strained the main storylines progression.

Overall, I enjoyed Subject Twenty One a lot and will be reading book two ASAP. It is YA and offers a thought provoking look at humanity and the future as well as the past. I will say that this book includes details of a Pandemic which some of you may not want to read about just yet but I found the detail was sparing and not gratuitous, only really mentioning it in passing. Warren writes a unique and intriguing narrative in a believable dystopia.
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Fascinating and a completely different take on any post-apocalyptic novel I've ever seen. Neither utopian or dystopian, this was a realistic look at a possible future in which we make oppressors for ourselves out of sheer guilt at what we've done to the planet.
Although I'm not sure the science of bringing back animals and Neanderthals from extinction is realistic, the segregation of homo sapiens from the future super-humans is all too likely.
The ending was a little abrupt and I could definitely see more needing to be said but I really enjoyed the story, the world-building and the characters.
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In the twenty-third century, humanity isn’t limited to just Homo sapiens. A deadly pandemic and the famine that followed led to humans experimenting with their genome in an attempt to makes themselves more resilient. Now there are two newer, better human species, and Homo sapiens has been pushed to the bottom of the pecking order and held responsible for the state in which it has left the planet.

Elise is a Sapiens, bound for a lifetime of low-skilled and tedious employment. She dreams of working among the  at the Museum of Evolution, where previously extinct species have been brought back to being by the Medius and Potior species. One of the latest returned species is Homo neanderthalensis, but they have not responded well to captivity, and require almost constant companionship to stop them hurting themselves, or worse. 

When Elise is accepted as the latest Companion to subject Twenty One she’s not sure what to expect. She’s been warned not to trust her colleagues as she has secrets that must be kept, but for Kit’s (Twenty One) sake she needs information and supplies. Her fellow Companion and her Medius supervisor might help, but dare she confide in them?

As post-apocalyptic stories go, Subject Twenty One is relatively benign. It has a solid premise, and, with the exception of the pantomime villain Potiors, the characters are mostly believable. Warren has obviously spent a lot of time on developing her fictional world but relays the information clumsily, inserting it in unwieldy clumps rather than flowing naturally. It still does the job but might find yourself a bit confused at a later point if you weren’t paying full attention at the right time.

In the Author’s Note, Warren mentions her research into palaeoanthropology and Homo Neanderthalensis, which makes it all that much bigger a clanger when she claims that humans evolved from chimpanzees. There are a number of other mistakes and continuity errors, including Kit knowing things he would have no way of knowing, and the inclusion of an animal identified as a sabre-tooth tiger, a defunct catch-all term based on species misattribution; the nearest is taken to be the Smilodon genus of sabre-toothed ‘cats’.

I wouldn’t say that Subject Twenty One is the best novel I’ve read in this genre, but it’s certainly not the worst. I became invested enough in Elise, Kit and Samuel to want to know what happens next, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next book in this series, The Hidden Base.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Headlines:
Great concept
Page turner
Friendship & respect

Subject Twenty One was so easy to get into and honestly, this was such a fast and easy book to read. This 'Jurassic Park-esque' concept grabbed me immediately and I really enjoyed the immersion in such an unusual story of a dystopian future.

This world with three different species of sapien, showed humanity not at its best. Elise, at the bottom of that rung was employed at a museum to be a companion to Subject Twenty One. The build up to this and the time working with him was just so interesting. Still, I wanted to know Kit better than I did at the end. I'm hoping for more of that from the second book.

There was so much plot to unfurl in this story but it was easy to follow. Trust was an underlying theme and it was truly hard to know who was trustworthy. Even Elise's family were suspicious to me. I liked Samuel, quite a lot and again, I want to know more about him.

This book was a fresh, gripping read with themes of suspense, trust, ethics and friendships. I am so on board with this world and I'm dying to read more; I can't wait for book two.

Thank you to DelRey UK for the review copy.
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23.rd Century. After pandemic, human race is divided between the lowest - Sapiens, genetically enhanced Medius and the ultimate Potior. As a Sapien, Elise finds a job in a Museum of Evolution, where all extincted species are cloned and exhibit to the public. She is hired as the newest Companion to the twenty-first Neanderthal to be brought back from extinction. Soon becomes clear that Neanderthal is more similar to modern human as she thought before. 

The longer she stays, the more she realizes that she too is an exhibit in this museum-like prison.

Such a brilliant novel, with strong and likeable protagonists, neverending questions about supremacy of certain group of people and most of all friendships and second chances.

Subject Twenty-one is author's debut novel and there will be four books in the Tomorrow's Ancestors series. 

I'm really looking forward to the next book!
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I had high hopes for "Subject Twenty-One". I didn't set them high enough! This is a superbly written story (in every aspect), with an engrossing plot (I bet you forget lunch while reading), great characters (it's impossible not to connect with them on some level), and a setting that makes everything else come to life. Eagerly awaiting the second book - and already hoping for a 3rd!!

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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This is without a doubt one of the best YA sci-fi books I've ever read. It's a pretty short book (about 300 pages) and personally I would've loved it to be longer because I was so invested in the story. But it's okay because this is the first book in a series and without a doubt I'll be reading the next three books when they're released.

I found the first few chapters of the book difficult to get into because of the amount of information they contained, but once you get a grasp on the world, the pace quickly picks up. 

The group of main characters were brilliant, and they felt like genuine people, with flawed personalities and differing opinions. I loved them so much, while also hating quite a few of the nasty characters.

I was not ready for the emotions the author would put me through while reading this book. There was a sense of dread as the story progressed. I could always feel a darkness lurking in minor details, and I knew everything was building up to something big. So when I finally got to the end, I wasn't surprised at the turn it took. Instead, the anticipation made the excitement even more intense.
Overall, I'm giving this book a solid 5 stars! It had everything a good book needs and more!
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I do love dystopian sci-fi, especially when it’s coupled with experimentation and isolation, so as soon as I heard the plot synopsis for this novel I knew it was one that I had to get my hands on. 

I felt that Elise was a brilliant protagonist and actually quite refreshing for a novel of this genre. Whilst she is a Sapien in the Outer Circle (the lowest in the social hierarchy) and not entirely happy with the way they are treated, she is happy with her family and wants to learn more about the world rather than change it. This desire to learn more, and to get out of her mundane production job, sees her taking a risk and joining the Museum of Evolution as a Companion for one of their Neanderthal exhibits. I love how she completely threw herself into her job and was always eager to do the best she could for Subject Twenty One, not simply to secure her position at the museum but because she wants to do what she can to improve Subject Twenty One’s wellbeing. 

I really enjoyed the range of characters that we were introduced to over the course of the novel. Even though the social hierarchy is incredibly strict and serious (down to how many syllables you can have in your name), I liked how relaxed and funny (some) of the characters were. There are just so many that I liked and who really brought something unique to the novel. Having the novel from Elise’s perspective was especially interesting when it came to character interaction, because we were never entirely sure who she could trust at the museum. She had grown up learning to be suspicious of the higher classes (‘species’), so we can’t help but also be suspicious too. 

The way Subject Twenty One was portrayed was brilliant too - I don’t want to say too much about this as it was great to learn more about him as Elise does, but I did love how he isn’t quite what you initially expect. I also really appreciated the inclusion of sign language as the primary source of communication for certain characters in this novel, including Elise’s deaf younger brother, Nathan (who was delightful). 

The future that Warren has brought to life is fascinating and one I can’t wait to see develop over the course of these four novels. The idea that the human race is divided into subspecies is already interesting but, to go further and incorporate genetic engineering and how far it could potentially go (eg. genes for IQ, physical build and empathy) is such a unique take on this topic and one that feels very believable, which gives the entire novel an extra depth of an unsettling atmosphere. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and could have easily read it in one sitting had I not been interrupted. It was completely gripping and had me hooked through the characters, the world and the pacing. I highly recommend you check out this first installment of a series that I will be keeping a close eye on!
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A great premise - following a pandemic, humanity has split into three groups: regular humans, or Sapiens, those with some genetic modification, the Medius, and those with the most advanced modification, the Potior.

The Sapiens are heavily restricted in what they can do, kept under control by the other two groups as punishment for crimes against nature. Species once made extinct by humanity are brought back to life, including Neanderthals. Elise, a Sapien, gets a job as a companion to a Neanderthal, and comes to realise all is not right with the world.

Overall, very good, though I do wish the book hadn't come to a sudden end while setting up a planned sequel. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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