The Broken Trust Books, by Juliette Wade

One of the many cool benefits of being an author is getting the chance to read other people’s books before they’re published. Earlier this summer, I was given the opportunity to read Juliette Wade‘s Transgressions of Power, the second of her Broken Trust books.

Of course, before I could really get into it, I had to read the first book, Mazes of Power.

Having now finished both books, I can safely say … when is the next one coming out?

The books are described as “sociological science fiction.” They’re set primarily in the cavern city of Pelismara — most people on this world live underground, though we do get glimpses of people working on the surface. The reader is thrown into the deep end of this world, and it could probably be a little disorienting for newer readers of SF.

But it’s effective, too. Curiosity drew me in, and Wade has developed so many layers of her world that there was always something new and interesting to learn.

Probably the most striking aspect of the books is the detailed and rigid caste system. Our protagonists are mostly Grobal, the ruling caste. Arissen are soldiers and guards, Imbati are servants, Kartunnen artists, and so on. It makes for very uncomfortable reading at times.

Over the course of the two books, we see some characters challenging and pushing back against the caste system, and in book two, you start to see more of the resentment and anger from people not of the Grobal caste. But for most of the characters — at least those in the Grobal caste — this system is a simple fact of existence. The Grobal race is superior, and to “Fall” to a lower caste is a fate worse than death…

The two most powerful positions are the Eminence and his Heir. Book one deals with Heir selection, and the political battles that play out. There’s plenty of intrigue, assassinations, bargains and betrayals, and endless manipulation. Without spoiling things, book two has a similar plotline that escalates the stakes even more.

There’s so much more going on. Nekantor of the First Family, the main antagonist, has untreated Obsessive Compulsive Disorder he has to keep hidden. (A proper Heir candidate shouldn’t have such a “weakness.”) The First Family wants power, but Nekantor’s brother Tagaret knows how evil and cruel Nek can be…just like their father, in many ways.

And then there’s romance, cross-caste friendships, more intrigue, upper-caste characters coming face-to-face with their privilege and the realities of the lower castes, love and loyalty, heroism in large moments and small alike.

These are complex, thoughtful books that kept me engaged throughout.

You can read an excerpt of book one on the publisher’s website.