Wasteland by Kristin Keppler and Allisa BahneyWasteland by Kristin Keppler and Allisa Bahney is the gritty kind of dystopian novel, with the tenacious, imperfect, and badass kind of heroines that melt me faster than a popsicle at noon in Death Valley.

Floods, fires, climate change, pandemics, and nuclear bombs. It’s a miracle there are any humans left in what remains of the United States. The ones that have survived are in a constant struggle not only against the elements, but also each other. The National Armed Forces (NAF) has risen as the dominant power in the east. Brutal expansionists, their ultimate goal is to conquer the wastelands securing control over all remaining civilization in the country. The only thing standing in their way is the Resistance.

Danielle Clark spent the better part of her life fighting against the tyranny of the NAF. Her hatred and thirst for vengeance over the death of her father (killed by the infamous NAF General Turner) knew no bounds. But after years of close calls, blood, and death, the Resistance’s most wanted soldier is done with the war. She and her brother, Lucas take haven in White River, a small wasteland community and though there are still struggles, they finally start to enjoy a semi-peaceful existence.

That peace is shattered however, when a decimated troop of NAF soldiers show up on the outskirts of the community and are attacked by raiders. When Dani spots a high-ranking officer in their midst, she can’t resist the opportunity to see what information she can glean from her. But the rescue/capture yields more than they bargained for, and Dani finds herself inexplicably and at times infuriatingly, drawn to the enemy officer, Major Katelyn Turner.

With the NAF sure to come looking for their missing soldiers, time is quickly running out. Dani is torn between, renewing old Resistance alliances, protecting her community from NAF retaliation, and figuring out what the heck she is going to do about Kate.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

I’m not sure why I like post-apocalyptic stories so much. There’s the whole rising from the ashes trope that I find inspiring, the thrill of watching characters overcome challenges, and definitely the perspective reset they give me. But I think it mostly has to do with the characters. They are strong, determined, tragic yet hopeful, and usually the best kind of badasses.

Both Dani and Kate definitely qualify as badasses, though from opposite sides of the tracks. The story alternates between their points of view allowing the reader to connect with each woman and experience both sides of their budding attraction. It’s an attraction that takes the enemies to lovers trope to the max! This also makes it (quite necessarily) a very slow burn romance. Imagine falling for not only the enemy, but the daughter of the woman who killed your father. I enjoyed how their expectations of one another were shattered and how each was able to affect the other’s perspectives.

Cons And Heads Up

As with many post-apocalyptic novels, there is plenty of violence, gore, and death. Additionally, the precursors to the apocalypse might hit a little too close to reality for some people. So, this may not be for you if these themes sound too much to deal with right now.

Also, fair warning…the story ends with a dramatic cliff hanger. Good news though, the sequel is already out so you don’t have to dangle in fretful anticipation of what happens next.

The Conclusion

Grab a glass of water before you start reading this dystopian gem because if the description of the barren wastelands doesn’t make you want to chug it down, you might need it to splash it on your face to calm yourself. The world building is eerily vivid, the characters are complex and compelling and there is oodles of action. If tales of redemption and enemies to lovers in dangerous times is your jam, well, this series is just what you are looking for.

Excerpt from Wasteland by Kristin Keppler and Allisa Bahney

Two towering raiders rush for the officer. She’s much smaller than them. I watch with fascination as she fights them off. Sweat drips down her face, and she readjusts her grip on her combat dagger as she takes a moment to regroup before lunging. Her hand is crimson with blood. It’s clear she’s killed a few with the lone weapon, and she wields it expertly.

They’re getting frustrated with how easily she dodges their attacks. The bigger of the two lunges with his own knife. She ducks effortlessly, almost lazily, to the side and drags her blade across the raider’s throat. He drops to his knees. The second raider moves to tackle her while she’s distracted. She shifts her weight to address his attack, but he’s too fast, so she throws her arms out to try to keep him from toppling her.

A shot rings out. The raider falls. Mike. She barely glances around before steadying herself for the next bout

The first attacker is still alive. Barely. He’s lying on his back, one hand pressed tightly against his neck. With the other, he reaches for a pistol partially buried underneath one of the fallen raiders.

I frown. If he kills her, I’ll never have a chance to question her. I square my shoulders and rush to step on his wrist, pinning it. I dig my heel into his skin. He releases the gun, wincing but unable to call out. I scoop up the pistol, continuing in the direction of the officer, and leave him to drown in his own blood.

Another fallen raider tries to scramble to his feet. I point the newly acquired pistol and pull the trigger. The raider falls back. Huh. Guess the gun wasn’t empty after all. I motion for the rest of the group to close in, and within seconds, we have the survivors surrounded.

“Fire at will,” I call.

In unison, my fighters take down the handful of remaining raiders, filling the air with gunfire and ending the fight within seconds. It takes one shot from my new pistol to pierce the skull of a raider closing in on the officer.

Without a moment’s pause, she spins and faces me, the blade balanced between the ball of her thumb and forefinger. Ready to throw. But I have two pistols trained on her. She pauses.

Her hazel eyes meet mine, and for a moment, there is nothing but me and her. A showdown between guns and blades. The quiet takes over the battlefield, and I can sense everyone holding their breath as they wait to see how the standoff ends. My index fingers itch as I run them up and down the triggers.

I can tell she’s debating who’s the faster draw.

I can’t help the small smirk tugging at my lips. “You might wanna drop that.”

She glances over as her remaining comrades drop their weapons and seems to notice that they are surrounded with more than a dozen guns aimed at them. Her eyes lock on me again. I can tell she’s still considering throwing the knife anyway. I arch an eyebrow.

We both know bullets are faster than blades.

A moment passes.

A bird chirps overhead, and another breeze pushes through, kicking up the loose dirt. The surviving NAF are panting heavily, and Jack shifts from one foot to the other. Someone groans from the ground to my left.

Still, I wait for her to decide.

I can barely hear, “Fuck,” as she drops the blade to the dirt.

“On your knees, princess,” I say mockingly…

“That’s a good girl, I say with a condescending smile. I can tell she wants to say something by the way her eyes burn a hole through my head. “If they move, shoot ‘em,” I say.

I don’t take my eyes off hers as she’s yanked to her feet. The name embroidered on the front of her gray uniform jacket makes my palms sweat and my heart race. Her eyes are unwavering and a little unnerving as she stares back at me.

I smile before I can stop myself. Your move, General Turner. I have your daughter.

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The Badlands



Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 9781635559354

Publisher: Bold Stroke Books

Kristin Keppler Online

Allisa Bahney Online

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