- Anna Jarzab
- Released October 8th 2013
- Book 1 of the Many-Worlds Trilogy
- 4 Stars
Sixteen year old Sasha Lawson has only known her life in Chicago but to prevent a war in the far off parallel universe of Aurora, she must become a princess who happens to be her analog in Aurora and has just disappeared before her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she’ll be trapped in another girl’s life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love–one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she’s someone she’s not.
Tandem wins the award for prettiest print layout so far this year! Seriously, it’s not over done like Illuminae was but it has enough flair that was really nice as a kind of intermission between chapters. A layout doesn’t win four stars though. What did it for me is the clever execution of parallel universes and the realness of the “other” world.
The main narrator, Alexandra “Sasha” Lawson, lives with her grandfather near the UChicago campus but one day, her long time crush, Grant, takes an interest in her. Never one to question opportunity when it presents, Sasha goes along with it until the night after prom where Grant turns out not to actually be Grant. In step parallel universe development because it turns out that “Grant” is actually a soldier named Thomas from another universe where Sasha is needed.
Sasha’s analog (not clone, but basically the same person) in Aurora, aptly named for its ever present aurora in the sky, is revealed to be Julianna the princess of the eastern half of the USA (or its counterpart in Aurora at least). She’s given a deal, impersonate Julianna for six days and then she’ll be allowed to go home and with nothing to lose, she goes along with the plan set for her by the General of the Commonwealth. The longer she stays in Aurora, the more Sasha uncovers about why she is really there and the real motives of the people commanding her. Yes it’s a mystery that actually kept me on my toes the whole time!
Tandem cycles its chapters through Sasha’s narration, Thomas’s narration, and brief snippets seen through Julianna’s eyes. These are all woven seamlessly with each corroborating the others yet keeping thoughts and developments independent of each person. This lead to plenty of “ohmigod, you idiot” internal screaming moments because there were things that some characters knew that the others didn’t and thus acted incorrectly on which though annoying for me, really shows the consistency of the story telling.
I also really liked how fleshed out Aurora was. Granted, the split USA theme isn’t that original, the science behind the parallel universes was super intriguing and seemed sound to me. The way that things were the same yet different in Aurora gave it a fantasy feel instead of just sci-fi which I thought was cool and the history of the world was described enough that I could get a feel for why things were happening the way they were. Really, the most interesting part of Tandem is the background that Sasha uncovers while she’s “trapped” there.
Now while the plot kept me hooked, the characters themselves didn’t really. They are all kind of assholey and/or stupid in their actions. Under normal circumstances, I would have liked the way some of the characters were excellent schemers but honestly they came across as arrogant sometimes. Yeah, I don’t know specifically what about these characters I disliked but just on the whole I couldn’t mesh with them. On top of that, there’s so much romance in this book and I know that it was marketed as a “saga of love and betrayal” but honestly, I could have done without leaving only the sleuthing around the characters had to do.
Tandem leaves off with this total cliffhanger and I do really want to read the next book Tether. Bonus, it also has a pretty cover and I hope the inside looks just as nice!