A walled city surrounded by lush land, protected by high mountain summits, and fortified by a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, The Bastion remained humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. On one fateful day, the valley gate failed and the Inferi Scourge overran and destroyed the human settlements outside the walls, trapping the remaining survivors inside the city. Now, decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city of dwindling resources…and dwindling hope. Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her entire life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness. Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate, reclaiming the lost lands and energizing the populace with renewed hope for the future. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.
Special thanks to Rhiannon Frater for the ARC of this book!
"You give them hope."
Review: Maria Martinez is a decorated war veteran. She has lived her entire life within the walls of the Bastion, the fort that keeps the last humans on earth safe from the Inferi Scourge. The Bastion is the safest place for humans on earth, yet the people live on rations of food, and without ever seeing the green, wide open spaces of their ancestors. Maria is an independent, strong-willed woman who wants to save humanity from the Inferi Scourge. The Inferi Scourge, or what you might also know as zombies, have taken over earth. They are not the the same kinds of zombies you've read about in Frater's zombocalyptic (sorry - love that word!) books, As the World Dies. These Inferi Scourge are a species of zombie that go dormant when there are no humans in their general vicinity. They only live to bite humans, not to eat them, therefore infecting as many as possible with their virus.
"In the last days of the human world, the Gaia cult rose up to declare Mother Earth, Gaia, was purging humanity. They said we were a virus. They believed that once the last human had died, the Inferi Scourge would die, too. And then earth would be saved from us. "
Many years ago, humans found a way to survive outside of The Bastion. There was a gate to keep the Inferi Scourge away, and humans were able to cultivate the fields and to raise animals. A disasterous event occurred, the gates failed, and a large percentage of the humans living outside of the Bastion were infected. Many attempts have been made to clear the valley of the Inferi Scourge, but none have been successful. Maria and her secret lover, Dwayne Reichardt are both veterans of the last attempt to clear the valley, and were lucky to survive the ordeal.
This wasn't a holographic projection in the training rooms, but the true, deadly Inferi Scourge. Their cloudy eyes, ratty clothes, tangled hair, and seeping wounds were the only indicators that they weren't human.
One day, Maria is approached by a government agency to partake in a new plan to clear the valley of the Inferi Scourge. The government has promised her that there is a way to innoculate her from the Inferi Scourge. The government was targeting war veterans with certain skills and no attachaments, such as a spouse to children, to volunteer for this new program. Maria feels a strong desire to help humanity and to make sure that no one else dies due to the Inferi Scourge.
"I could walk among them, kill them, and walk away without being attacked." Hearing the words coming from her own lips made her shiver, but the excitement of being able to fight the Inferi Scourge without fear was like electricity in her bones. "I'm going to help clear the valley and close the gate."
The government does not suspect that Maria is in a very serious relationship with Dwayne, a high ranking officer within The Bastion's Constabulary. Dwayne is in the process of divorcing his first wife, but it is obvious that he is completely in love with Maria. Dwayne is handsome and strong. He is a military man, dedicated to ridding the world of the Inferi Scourge, but is more interested in protecting Maria. He does not like the fact that Maria is volunteering for this mission, yet he refuses to ask her not to, knowing how important this is to her.
"Never doubt for a moment that I love you. I don't think I ever really loved anyone before you."
There is a fair bit of political maneuvering in this book. Things aren't always what they seem, and betrayal is running rampant. Maria already had her doubts about the government before she agreed to this volunteer position. She knew that the government talking heads were spewing "lies and half-truths." It isn't until much later in this book that the full extent of the government role is known, and it's a doozy.
The ending of this book kept me on the edge of my seat. There is a game changer that happens in regards to the Inferi Scourge, and what happens to the rest of the volunteers of this secret mission. The story line is written tightly. Frater uses description wisely - not too much to become boring, but just enough to give her world a beautiful feel. I was very much invested on the fates of these characters, and was very happy with the unconventional ending. Rhiannon Frater packs a punch when writing emotions into her characters, and this book is no exception.
I've now read four books written by Frater, and am continually amazed at how sharp the writing is. If you are a fan of zombies, or are looking for a different spin on zombies, then this is your book!