Under My Skin (The Immortality Strain Series Book 1) by Shawntelle Madison
**I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review**
Upon their 16th year, all teens in the Myria area are required to be “tested” to see if they are eligible to be a Water Bearer, an extreme honor within the community. For Tate Sullivan, the unknown of the test is enough to drive her to tears. No one in her family has ever passed the test, therefore there in no point of reference for her – they only have what the exclusive and elusive Guild have to tell them; which of course includes their leader, the Prime Minister.
When both Tate and her cousin Zoe pass the test, they are not permitted to even tell their family good-bye, for fear that they will be polluted by anyone on the outside, seeing as they are now Aspirants of the Water Bearers. Scared and home-sick, Tate is the ever loyal and obedient citizen, and she goes along with the program without complaint. When it comes time to be presented to the Guild, Tate obtains a large number of sponsorships, thus allowing her more comfortable living quarters, food, clothing, and helpers – as is her cousin, Zoe. But once the bidding begins, Tate receives the highest bid and is immediately sent on her way – except that on her way to transport, a small ambush arrives, attempting to liberate her. Unfortunately, she is caught in the crosshairs and is shot in the process. She is in and out of consciousness, at times wishing for death – to which an old, crackling voice tells her will come soon. She figures it must be a dream, for when she awakens, other than her obvious discomfort for her wound, she is okay.
But Tate is far from okay – as she soon realizes that she wasn’t dreaming, and she now knows why things have stayed the same for so long with Guild…they have figured out a way to live forever, using the Water Bearers’ bodies as new vessels. Horrified at her fate, with the help of some of the staff – which includes her new “Master”, General Dagon’s Master of Blades, Quinn Belfray. He is willing to help Tate erase General Dagon from her mind and body permanently, but they have no idea who they are up against – the General will not go down without a fight. So the question remains, is Tate strong enough to ride herself of the horrible man forever, or will he take over her mind and body in a moment of weakness, never to be heard from again; just an empty shell who was once Tate Sullivan?
Tate is a smart girl – she’s also strong, loyal, and not willing to give up without a fight. She is ready to go toe-to-toe with the Guild members to change her world – and for those of the future would-be Water Bearers. I really liked that she was willing to do anything to change her fate, especially with someone else randomly popping into her mind at any time. Her relationship with Quinn is very sweet – at first he wants nothing to do with her as a person, he simply wants to eradicate the General. But as he gets to know Tate, he can’t help but fall for her.
I really enjoyed the ups and downs the story takes the reader on. There are some great plot twists – and while I felt slightly at peace with where the story left off, I’m sure Ms. Madison has many more twists and turns up her sleeve in the next book. This was a great dystopian novel – what a scary and fascinating world that is weaved together. Also, honorable mention on the cover as well – it’s exactly as I would envisioned a Guild member, especially one such as the General, would make their new body up as – in this case, Tate. Just beautiful work all around!