I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The book started a bit slow, and I kind of had a hard time warming up to Madeline, Brandon and Thomas, but I was reading this as a review copy so I wanted to be sure I gave them a fair chance to grow on me. It took me a few days to read the first several chapters of the book, but once everyone got settled in an the story really got going, I read the rest in just a few hours – it hooked me that well.
The three characters have known each other for years: Brandon is Thomas’s younger brother and Madeline’s best friend, while Thomas is her erstwhile boyfriend with a tendency to wander. Madeline suffers from epilepsy and has a history of absence seizures, where she will become non a responsive and stare off into space. Kids at school, of course, treat her differently as a result, something that only gets worse when she begins to have seizures where she shakes violently and collapses unconscious.
When we first meet her, Madeline wakes up in an empty, derelict hospital with no electricity and no clue to what she’s doing there or why it’s in the condition it is. She leaves her room to try to figure out what’s going on when she runs into Thomas who explains that she’s been in a coma and has been since the day her parents were killed. Before she can get too many more answers, though, she experiences her first major seizure and wakes up in her expected classroom, assuming what she’d just seen was a seizure-triggered dream. When it happens again after another major seizure, she starts to become more confused.
In both worlds, Brandon and Thomas are the main forces in her life, and while she’s trying to cope with the confusion of her dual realities, the brothers – though trying to be supportive – cause a whole different level of confusion as they try to define, or maybe redefine, their relationships with her and, to an extent, with each other.
I really liked the mix of apocalyptic-level drama contrasted with the typical teenaged angst boys and girls put each other through. It helped make the more dangerous aspects of the dystopian world stand out from the more mundane issues she had to cope with in the peaceful world. It was also interesting to see how her interactions with the two versions of the brothers impacted how she dealt with them amid the changes they were sometimes unintentionally throwing her way. I also liked seeing how information she’d gain in one reality could be useful in the other.
The book ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, so I’m hoping the next installment will be ready fairly soon! I really am glad I stuck with it – “Altar of Reality” is a nicely told story with several dimensions to it, and a believable heroine just trying to figure out a very strange situation.