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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Start of Something Epic, 4 July 2014
By 
clahain (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dark Citadel (The Green Woman Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I am always hesitant about "post-apocalyptic" fantasy novels. The pervasive darkness. The unending parade of grotesque mutants. The elitist, merciless "new regime," concrete evidence that all the death and destruction was truly for nothing. In my experience, there's never enough hope at the end of such books to justify slogging through them.

THE DARK CITADEL, book one of Jane Dougherty's THE GREEN WOMAN trilogy, manages to elevate this bitter recipe of joylessness and desolation and create something fresh. The Last War has been fought. Demons have been unleashed and rage across the barren earth. What remains of humanity--most of it anyway--exists within a domed city called Providence. Society is organized as a fanatical theocracy. The focus of worship are so-called "wise Gods," but there's an undeniable darkness at the heart of the city. Men rule over women, but even men are subject to the harsh, strictly stratified social classes. There's a preoccupation with a figure known as the Green woman, a blasphemous, pagan-type figure determined to take the city and hand all the goodwomen and goodmen over to evil. In actuality, the Green Woman is the last keeper of Memory and has the ability to awaken this memory and rebuild the world. But to succeed she needs her daughter, who has been held hostage by the leaders of Providence for ten years. THE DARK CITADEL focus on young Deborah's discovery of her past, her escape from Providence, and the start of her quest to find her mother.

Jane Dougherty gives us a richly layered, character-driven story. Part I, which takes place exclusively in Providence, reminds me of a Dickens novel. The thick, unhealthy atmosphere, twisted characters, and pervasive corruption is BLEAK HOUSE transported to a dome at the end of the remembered world. As in a Dickens novel, the major players come into contact with one another only tangentially at first. We readers can see the subtle, fateful intertwining of individual stories, while the characters often remain oblivious, caught up in their own struggles.

Part II of the novel takes us out of the dome into the desert, which turns out to be populated by an assortment of living and demonic beings. The action ratchets up as Deborah and her guide Jonas struggle north with only a pack of wolf pups to protect them. Dougherty takes care developing the relationship between these two, but the romance is always subordinate to their fight for survival against marauding desert creatures and the minions of evil sent to intercept Deborah. The farther north the couple gets, the more myth begins to invade reality, as various races of creatures werewolves, centaurs, river gods, etc. make themselves known and begin to choose sides in a coming battle (encompassing the whole of human myth and history) that will decide more than the fate of a couple of teenagers or even the city of Providence.

I have to admit that parts of this book are difficult to read. There is such cruelty, darkness, and loss. Sometimes, I had to put the book down and regroup emotionally. When I returned, Dougherty's lyrical writing--it really is a beautifully crafted book--carried me through.

Another warning: this is not a stand-alone work. But it's also not a cliff hanger. I detest cliffhangers. That's where the action stops dead at a high point and you have no idea what will happen to the main characters. Too often this is a cheap and easy (and artificial) way to manipulate readers into buying the next book. The end of THE DARK CITADEL provides a definite pause. We know exactly where the characters are. It's a point where choices are made, transformations happen, and then things get quiet in preparation for something even bigger.

THE DARK CITADEL is a breathtaking book, but it's only the gateway into a deeper experience. In this case, based on the quality of this introductory work, I'm willing to trust that what comes will be everything I expect.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great post apocalyptic tale, 13 Oct. 2013
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This is a complex young adult book combining a grim dystopian future city with many elements of mythology in the world beyond the city. This novel is the first part of the saga. The novel's heroine Deborah is a particularly interesting character to me and I found her problems convincing and exciting. The novel is bursting with ideas on the twisting of religion into a instrument of control. The totalitarian system is accepted in all it's brutality by most of its citizens and the only people who actually still have some understanding of the past and what is happening are labelled as 'ignorants' and are a persecuted underclass of workers. Beyond the city monsters and demons dwell!
An exciting and thought provoking young adult read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating introduction to a cruel, dark world, 6 Nov. 2013
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Jane Dougherty's The Dark Citadel is an uncompromising dystopian fantasy novel that undermines your expectations of young adult fiction. In the old days we read C. S. Lewis and Arthur Ransome until we hit 13 and then we started on Stephen King and Clive Barker. There was no `YA' category to buffer young readers with safe tales about adolescent revenge fantasies or vampires snogging werewolves. You were dropped right into the deep end. Jane Dougherty's wonderful first book returns us to those perilous times with a fast paced and highly imaginative story that frequently sticks the knife in, and then gives it a couple of twists for good measure. The heroine, Deborah, lives in Providence, a fascist/religious totalitarian state with a strict caste system sheltering under an immense dome. Outside, the post-apocalyptic wasteland is inhabited by demons, supernatural evil and creatures from Earth's ancient mythologies. As the novel unfolds Deborah discovers that she may hold the key to the future survival of the forces of good. To save the world she must escape from Providence to journey through the wasteland in search of her mother, the mysterious Green Woman. The author has created a massive tapestry for the backdrop to The Dark Citadel - imagine a painting by Hieronymous Bosch designed by George Orwell and set in North Korea. The novel throws a stream of fascinating ideas at the reader at a breathless pace and in many places I found myself wishing the book was longer, and spent more time delving into both the brutal regime of Providence, and the fantastical landscapes beyond. Hopefully in the sequels we'll learn more about the complexity and mystery of this desolate world. As I mentioned before, Jane Dougherty tells a brutal tale, and clearly enjoys whipping the carpet from under her reader's feet. There were several episodes that made me wince at the sudden viciousness, and stayed with me for a long time afterwards. This is a very powerful start to what promises to be an intriguing and refreshingly different dark fantasy series that's not afraid to discomfort and challenge its audience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant dark fantasy, 4 Oct. 2013
By 
It's been a long time since a book captivated me the way this book did. I thought about the book constantly when I wasn't reading it and finally stayed up all night to finish it. I absolutely loved it.

Ms. Dougherty is a very gifted author. The writing is descriptive, but not so much that it interferes with the pacing. From the desolation in the city of Providence to the dark underground. From the unforgiving desert to the deep forest, the author gives the reader a full sensory experience. This book really moves! There wasn't a single scene where my attention wandered. It wasn't a non-stop barrage of action scenes, but a very thought-provoking novel with twists and turns and danger. Always danger!

The story follows two main characters--Deborah and Zachariah--but also branches out to include Abaddon, the evil lord hellbent on destroying the Green Woman. We also meet Jonah, the dog boy (and probably my favorite character besides Deborah). The key to survival in the desolate, authoritarian city of Providence is to keep your mouth shut and do as you're told. Deborah is not well-suited to survive Providence. She's rebellious, questioning everything and everyone around her. Her sense of fairness and justice lands her in the House of Corrections where she meets Zachariah. I didn't like Zachariah nearly as much. His rebellion isn't triggered by an innate sense of fairness and equality, but more from a personal disappointment.

In Providence, evil is at work and it's only going to get worse. For those who are considered the Ignorants, there doesn't seem to be much to live for. But, we find out through Zachariah's storyline that the Ignorants--or Danaans--are very poorly named. They know the legends from the old times, the songs, the stories. It's Deborah who hold the memory and she is in more danger than even she realizes.

The only problem I had with this book was the ending. There wasn't really an ending to it at all, which is understandable since it is part of a fantasy series. There were so many loose ends and I'm sure I'll have to reread this book before the second book is released. But, this is a personal preference, and not a failing on the part of the author. I'm very desperate to get my hands on the next book. It's definitely worth waiting for.

Due to the ages of the main characters, this book has landed in the YA category. As a mom of teens, I'd say this book is great for ages fourteen and up. It's fast-moving enough to engage the younger reader and will make them think long after they're finished reading. As a parent, you can't ask for more. As a reader, I almost hate to see this in the YA category because I'm afraid some serious fantasy readers might pass it by. This is epic fantasy at its best. It put me in mind of a Tad Williams or Terry Goodkind tale. If you're a fan of high fantasy or even urban fantasy, you need to give this a read.

Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A richly layered, thought provoking dark fantasy, 16 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Dark Citadel (The Green Woman Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
In the Dark Citadel, Jane Dougherty has created a vividly layered, cruel fantasy world where the city of Providence acts as the last refuge of humanity against the demonic armies of evil. Yet even Providence has succumbed to the all pervasive corruption, where the heavily structured society where love and affection are suppressed by the rigid laws and a twisted, oppressive religion.

Out of this gloom we follow Deborah, a young orphan shunned by others because of her parents, who rebels against the fate mapped out for her. As she gets further into trouble, Deborah starts to learn more about her history, and the true history of her people. She decides to escape Providence and find her mother, a direct descendent of Eve, to change the world for the better.

I loved this book. Dougherty’s world may be bleak, but she has balanced the hope and despair with great skill to ensure the threat of disaster is always there but never overwhelming. Her multi-layered society is terrifyingly believable, especially the way the authorities use their twisted doctrine to ensure the population oppress themselves, and in Deborah she has created a wonderfully spiky, independent protagonist you cannot help but want to succeed – a great example of a strong, female lead.

If you enjoy you are looking to escape into a well-written, unique dark fantasy, you would be hard pushed to find a better book than this. I cannot wait to read the next two books in the series. Highly Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Big, dark themes with a touch of humanity, 13 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Dark Citadel (The Green Woman Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
The Green Woman series starts with The Dark Citadel, and introduces us to its heroine, Deborah. She is a Givenchild, adopted when her birth mother escaped the oppressive city of Providence, and her father disappeared. Now, she is about to turn sixteen, and rebels against the marriage which the state has planned for her. Thus a series of events are set in motion as Deborah goes in search of her mother, discovering her true identity, and the destiny she can’t avoid.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Providence was a city designed as a refuge, a last defiant cradle of humanity and civilisation. Beyond the safety of its crystal dome, demons swoop through the eternal shifting sandstorms, and the dark of night reigns. In the wastelands outside, there is little chance of survival, but for many, life within the dome is just as precarious.

This book encompasses big themes, dark themes which the author does not shy away from. She sets out her stall in the very first chapter, where we see the doctors of the Holy City State coldly performing the routine mass murder of all new-born Ignorant babies,

‘The doctors, masked and latex-gloved, reached backwards and forwards to the tray of vials, inserting syringes in a single, practised movement. Each baby’s face puckered and grimaced, and a last feeble protest escaped on its warm milky breath when the needle was withdrawn from its heart.’

In this book, Dougherty deftly handles issues of racial hatred and persecution, the abuses of women and children in a male dominated society, the cracks opened up in a society bound by the tight control of a rigid authoritarian state, the use of brutality and forced fanatical religious worship as a means of control. In doing so, the author draws not from imagination, but the world around us, past and present. It’s a grim picture, but not a hopeless one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 3 Feb. 2014
I loved this tale of Deborah and Zachariah who live in Providence, a city in the middle of a vast wasteland where demons and evil roam over its crystal dome trying to get in whilst the people inside live like zoo animals under the law of the Elders who are just as bad as the demons. It is the very worst of humanity in a petri dish as most of them accept their lot and a few enjoy their power over others. The lowest caste, the Ignorants (Or the Dananns as they prefer to be called) are the worst treated of the lot but they are the ones who hold the key to a better life and they wait patiently for the Green Woman to come and save them.

In this first installment we meet Deborah who has visions of green lands, sun filled skies and bountiful food for everyone. Is she going mad or is there more to these visions? She rebels against the system and decides to seek out the truth by finding her mother whom she was separated from as a young child. Her journey takes her outside of the relative safety of Providence into the darker world outside where it is said no human can survive.

Zachariah takes his own path to find the Green Woman. His upbringing still very much entrenched in him until he comes across the Dananns and realises there is something more.

Jane Dougherty has a bit of a winner with this fantasy tale and it is beautifully written. A real page turner. This book is marketed as young adult fiction but I think it passes over that boundary and is suitably dark enough for adult fans of this type of fantasy too.

I would have liked the book to answer a few more questions before it ended but it is such an absorbing tale I would happily purchase the follow on to find out what happens. The Subtle Fiend, Book Two of the series is now available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous read, 16 Jan. 2014
This amazing story really grips you from the moment you open it!
It is about a gifted young girl trying to find her place in a world of perils and evil.
The city she lives in is divided into two segments, one being where the 'ignorants' live , who are really the more free living people.
The city is surrounded by deserts and monsterous creatures. very few people leave the city.

The hero's of the book each travel a treacherous journey, fraught with danger around every corner.

Straight away we are told in descriptive work , about the city. The story is excellently and intellectually written. It is of high quality and very intrueging. I literally sat up until the early hours reading as I didn't want to put it down.

The author takes us on an epic journey of discovery and adventure, with lots of twists and turns along the way. She explores how the characters have very differing beliefs and ethics depending on which side of the city they lived in.

The title immediately suggests dark undertones and we aren't disappointed with this . in the end though, evil never wins.

The book is written from the point of view of the three main characters. With a strong plot and excellent details it really is a must read book the characters are lively, the storyline is unique and it is quite simply a fantastic read.

Jane Dougherty can be found on kindle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark fantasy with a bite., 18 Dec. 2013
A gritty and dark YA novel that is both exciting and dramatic. It is in general, a fast paced adventure with moments of stark realism mixed in with high fantasy. I love Jane Dougherty's descriptions; they are rich and evocative and really draw the reader into the story. 'The air was heavy and cloying, like tepid water with a little sugar in it.'

The heroine Deborah, is a feisty and foul-mouthed fifteen year old fleeing from an arranged marriage. She becomes an outcast from the sinister world she lives in - Providence. But she also has a vulnerable side, which makes her a believable and interesting character to follow on her journey. The other main characters, Zachariah, whom Deborah meets when she ends up in the House of Correction and Jonah, who lives with a pack of wild dogs, are also well thought out characters.

There is a lot of violence in this book and some younger YA readers may find the often graphic descriptions a little unpleasant, but I actually really enjoyed reading Jane's excellent no - nonsense narrative style. Although at times I found the narrative voice a little too angry.

I wasn't sure about the use of realistic/English sounding slang words used by some minor characters in the book. They didn't seem to fit in with the fantasy language the story is mainly written in.

But these niggles are minor and did not detract from my enjoyment of this excellent novel. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys not only dark fantasy novels, but anyone who likes to read quality fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Citadel, 24 Nov. 2013
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A YA dystopian fantasy is not something I would normally pick up, but with that marvellous line "Evil is slouching into Providence" I couldn't resist.

This is a tale of good versus evil with the most sumptuous world building and scene setting I've come across. By the end I felt I knew Providence's streets and culture like the back of my hand. Delightful prose brings the characters to life and it does feel that every word has been chosen with care. There are some lines that are so cleverly strung together I had re-read to further appreciate the subtle skill involved. I particularly liked the `Givenchild' premise and the way the idea is incorporated and indeed crucial to the control of the dystopian society. There's a sense of urgency throughout the story as we breathlessly switch scenes back and forth between Deborah, Zacharia and others, in almost cinematic fashion, as if somewhere behind us a drum is beating and the rhythm is getting faster. It certainly kept the pages turning.

There are some violent/scary scenes, unpalatable rituals and the occasional use of bad language, and therefore it may be more suitable for older `young adults' but these issues are integral to the story and handled sensitively. Make no mistake; the author doesn't pull any punches in creating this grim and brutal society. The Black Boys are particularly scary. But alongside this there is witty dialogue and some heart warming moments.

I enjoyed this immensely, not only because it's a cracking story, but also because of the clever word-smithing. I would certainly recommend it.
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