“She couldn’t shake the feeling that he was hiding something. Let’s not pry, she thought. She knew it was stupid, but if he was lying, she didn’t want to know. That would break her for good.”
Crowned Worthy is a dystopian novel, where life is seen through merits. Are you worthy enough? The main character, Ajay Ambers is the perfect Tulo citizen, working hard to earn merits. Not just through his job, but there are merits to be earned through the right social interactions, and even through relaxation. Indulging in certain foods or taking time off makes you lose merits though, and doing something seen as unworthy, let alone help a person classed as Unworthy…well, that’s a sure way to do down in merits, and therefore in rewards or privileges as well.
Life in Tulo is a careful balance, and a lack of ambition costs you merits. Having more merits, however, opens up more doors, literally, until you reach the highest status, and you can reach the Glorified Quarters with their wonderful homes and latest inventions. With a Glorified-born girlfriend at his side and a talent for technology, Ajay seems settled on the path to success without having to worry about becoming Unworthy.
It took me a while to get used to the technology and Tulo itself, and I could just see Ajay climbing the social and corporate ladder at a steady pace, when suddenly Lydia Jenkins, the author, dropped a huge bombshell. No spoilers, of course, but trust me, it was huge. I felt more sympathetic to Ajay and the struggles in his life, as well as some choices he made, were making more sense after I read how he…the bombshell, basically!
Then there is Genni, Ajay’s girlfriend. She’s an artist, something that doesn’t do much on the merit front, so she hides her art until things go dreadfully wrong for her. Genni comes to see how art can help people around her. I loved that part of the book, as people in Tulo are so obsessed with merits and job performance, and Lydia has brought in the necessity of art and a talent for things we love to do. I love how in this subtle way she shows how essential art and expression is. In fact, it’s such an important part of us all that Genni almost loses her life over it!
Tulo is a dystopian society, and in many ways, it reminded me of Walled City, although I didn’t go for the high tech kind of society. I did enjoy that about Tulo; SkipSleep, for example (how handy would that be!), or the fast delivery via drone. And I’ll never look at a smartwatch the same way again, haha. Don’t judge a book by its cover is so true in this case, as the cover reminded me of science type textbooks at first. But the rather bland cover suddenly made sense, and really fits the theme, an instant reminder of what I was reading about the various Rings, as well as The Side. The Guiding Light is kept carefully out of Tulo society, and Ajay has to come to terms with this as well. Choices have to be made. I loved reading about The Guiding Light, and how it came back in some surprising ways, affecting people on different levels.
There are a few surprising twists and turns in Crowned Worthy that made me want to read faster, to find out if they make it out alive, or whether Command will catch up with Ajay, Genni and their friends. Then there is the question that is foremost in every Tulo citizens’ minds: will they be Crowned Worthy? And especially for Ajay, who comes to realise that he has spent everything on collecting crowns of Worthiness. Had it been worth it in the end?
Lydia has done a great job with her debut novel, in writing a book that reminds us of priorities in our lives, and above all, that you can’t earn or buy lasting happiness. Lydia has a particular passion for the lives of young people as they begin to navigate the working world and adult life. I wonder how long we will need to wait for book 2, to find out what happens to Ajay and his friends… I’m glad that Lydia and I are both part of ACW, a wonderful group for Christian Writers, so hopefully, I will be one of the first to hear the news of book 2 coming out!
I was given a free review copy through Love Books Tours but was under no obligation or pressure to give a favourable review. These views are entirely my own.