Book Review: Dandelion Iron by Aaron Michael Ritchey

Dandelion Iron (Juniper Wars book 1) by Aaron Michael Ritchey – 3 stars

It is the year 2058.

The Sino-American War has decimated several generations of men, and the Sterility Epidemic has made 90% of the surviving males sterile.

Electricity does not function in five western states. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana are territories once again. Collectively, they are known as the Juniper.

It is the most dangerous place on Earth.

On a desperate post-apocalyptic cattle drive to save their family ranch, Cavatica Weller and her two gunslinging sisters stumble across a rare boy. Sharlotte wants to send him away, Wren wants to sell him…and Cavatica falls in love with him.

Little do they know that an inhuman army is searching for the boy and will stop at nothing to find him.

Welcome to the world of The Juniper Wars.

In general, this book is fine. It has a strong plot, strong characters, and well thought out dystopia. The airship battles are entertaining, the type of dystopia is clever, and the story is a good, old fashioned adventure.

I…just didn’t like it. The central, core aspect of the setting rests on two main pillars. One is the war in the past, the other is the sterility epidemic among men. As far as the war goes, that part lost me when a nuke hit Yellowstone and didn’t blow up. I know it’s fiction and all, but I couldn’t stop thinking, “Shouldn’t the giant magma chamber under Yellowstone have erupted? Like, a lot?” To be fair, it’s a novel idea for knocking the tech of the entire region back to steam, but it didn’t work for me.

The other part, the sterility epidemic, is fine in itself. The reactions of American culture struck me as difficult to swallow. In the story’s past, this caused a resurgence of prudish Christianity, heavy on the patriarchal strictures on women in the area and sex and marriage. Which is oddly dissonant in a world where women are what’s around to run it. With a grossly gender imbalanced population, society staying strict about marriage being necessary for procreation–even if it’s only on the surface–makes no sense to me. I stumbled with the story chiefly because of this fact. It’s a necessary piece of the story because it informs the relationships between Cavatica and everyone else, but it baffled me.

As a minor quibble, it drove me bananas that the narrative (as opposed to the characters’ speech) includes the use of slangish words like “prolly.” Since it’s written in 1st person, this is more or less understandable, but it bugged me. A lot.

People intrigued by the idea of a steampunk dystopia would probably enjoy this book.

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