Title: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
Author: Ambelin Kwaymullina
Date Read: 26/06/2016 – 01/08/2016
Ashala Wolf is an Illegal, someone with an ability that allegedly causes a disruption to the Balance. She has been taken prisoner by Neville Rose, the Chief Administrator of Detention Centre 3, and is subjected to The Machine, which can harvest memories from a person’s mind. All the while, Justin Connor, her betrayer stands by… but all is not as it seems, including Ashala’s of her Tribe and her capture…
First of all, there is no love triangle in this book! I know! And on top of that, the dysoptia is not constructed around a regression to bygone sexist and racist ages. Anyone can be born with an Ability (Ashala’s is sleepwalking, and being able to do whatever she wants in her dreamstate; others can cause fires or earthquakes, heal others or alter memories), and there are people of all races and genders in Ashala’s Tribe. The same is true of Enforcers, Adminstrators and Citizens. So this book gets major props for that, because goodness me, I tired of those awful tropes.
There is a romance, but it was a bit ploddy, and never convinced me entirely. I think part of this is due to the structure of the book. Ashala believes things to be one way for a significant portion fo the story, but a revelation part way through completely changes the way she, and the reader, sees things, meaning a lot of her past is restructured as she comes to terms with it. While I liked this structural arrangement in terms of plot, it did mean the relationships between some of the characters got a little confused.
(^^ I hope that makes sense. I’m trying to be spoiler-free).
The world-building was mostly good; there was definitely enough to go on, and things were explained as they needed to be throughout. However, I think I was hoping for a bit more evidence of inspiration taken from the author’s Palyku (an Australian First Nation) culture. There is a serpent character who is rather reminicent of the Rainbow Serpent, and certainly the idea of the Illegals could be taken as an allegory for the Stolen Generations (up until the 1970s, Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from the families and raised with white people so as to better “assimilate” into “proper” Australian culture), but I was hoping for something more in this vein.
The story actually concludes rather nicely, making me wonder whether Kwaymullina actually intended it to be a series from the outset. Since it feels wrapped up, I don’t feel the need to rush out and get the second book straight away, but the synopsis of the second book is intriguing, so I might still give it a go at some point.
(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).