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The Pretenders: 01/24/20

The Pretenders

The Pretenders by Rebecca Hanover is the sequel and conclusion to The Similars. Emma is still coming to terms with a huge personal secret revealed to her at the end of the last school year. She just wants to graduate from Darkwood Academy without last year's drama and danger but she knows that's not going to happen.

Where the previous volume was speculative fiction bordering on horror, this one is straight up horror. Where once there were seven clones (or "similars") now there is the reality of an army of them. The first ones show up at Darkwood, masquerading as their DNA originals but with fewer inhibitions. But then they start to improve in their imitations. They have memories and mannerisms they shouldn't have.

The Similars builds on the cloning technology proposed in The Pretenders and spins the narrative to a modern pastiche of (Invasion of) the Body Snatchers (1955). Instead of just a town under siege, or just Darkwood Academy, now the entire nation is at risk.

Chart showing the change in placement on the road narrative spectrum between Similars and Pretenders. Click for a larger version.

Like the first book, this one also sits on the road narrative spectrum. Understanding the spectrum shift shows how the duology slides into horror.

The travelers remain the same as before: scarecrows and minotaurs. All of the travellers are clones. Some are scarecrows — in that they want to protect the world, rescue their friends, and save the world. Others are minotaurs — trapped and in need of rescue. Who is who, I'm not going to tell and for the purpose of the road narrative spectrum, it doesn't matter as scarecrows and minotaurs (99) are the same kind of traveler, just with different circumstances.

The destination is home (66). What and where home is depends on the traveller. Again, I'm not going into details to avoid spoilers. Regardless of who the traveler is, each of them in their own way wants to get home. The concept of home while a universal one, is still an individual one. There are many home destinations here.

The route taken is the Blue Highway (33). Yes, there are many off road jaunts too but out of all trips home, there is one that narrationally counts more than the others. The final home is back to where it all started — Darkwood Academy.

With home and the Blue Highway being two of three axes in The Pretenders's placement on the road narrative spectrum, there is a fundamental shift towards horror, while still staying in the speculative fiction or fantasy side of the chasm.

Five stars

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