Quelling is a fine follow-up to Sowing, in the Purification Era series. What it lacks in worldbuilding and cohesive plot points it makes up for with character development.
Rab and Ri find themselves in the same position as they were in Sowing. Ri is still physically abused by her mother and longing for freedom, but held back from running because of circumstances outside of her control. Rab continues to grow entrenched in the rebel movement, protecting Ri from their mother, and sorting through the trauma of her own sexual assault. The themes are dark without being overdone, and you get a really good sense of the inner struggle in these main characters (one of the advantages of first person POV).
We get a good bit more of the itzalin in this book, which I liked. I still feel there is more info we need to really understand the reason behind WHY they are so feared, besides the reason given in the book(s). I still feel the world is just too small. All the action takes place within one city, mostly behind its walls, so it gives a very limited scope of what this world is really like. If we had a bit more scope, it would bump this up to a 5 star for me, because I absolutely adore the phenomenal characters in this story.
The plot rambles a bit, and lacks some cohesion. It’s more a moment by moment type of style, as opposed to the normal 5 act structure one would expect for dystopian novel. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what the author is going for. It SEEMS the author really wants to focus on character arc, and worldbuilding/plot falls secondary. So instead of a build-up to a climax, there are sparks of action and intrigue throughout, setting a good pace and yet not really leading anywhere concrete except to highlight the intrigue and relational aspects of the characters lives. Again, not a bad thing, just… different.
As mentioned before, where this story might lack in some aspects, it MORE than makes up for in incredibly well done, intriguing, complex characters. There are a few side characters that might need a bit more to them, but the main characters are fantastic.
Rab/Ri and their endearing love for and loyalty to each other is sooooo well done. They are becoming one of my favorite sister/friendship duo’s EVER. You don’t get this type of relationship THIS well done very often in literature, let alone YA. The author has a firm grasp on who they are as a character. Their voices are unique, consistent, and believable. Ariliah, the youngest, is timid and shy, yet undergoes a steady buildup to believable motivations and an understandable reason for being the way she is. Rabreah is fiery, often impulsive to the point of stupidity, yet has the heart and courage of a lion. Yet we get a glimpse of those walls coming down with Sorek, and it’s heart-meltingly, hits you right in the feels type of development.
Don’t get me started on Masrekah. The complexity of this character is so well-done it makes me sad he doesn’t actually exist. Sniff. I’ll just say this: one minute you’re convinced he’s a good guy at heart, and the next you are certain he’s an arrogant, narcissistic ass who needs to be taken down a peg or two. But that’s just it. He’s both, and the splendid weaving of his story only gets better with this book as it progresses.