Review: The Orphan by Marcus Tallberg and Elin Frykholm

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Marcus Tallberg and Elin Frykholm's The Orphan was published by Tallbergs Förlag (book link) in February 2021.

Marcus Tallberg

Marcus Tallberg has published 3 books in Swedish and 1 in English (so far). His books is based on reality, either from his own life or from interviews he's done.

He is also the owner of Tallbergs Förlag (a publishing house) that works as a media plattform for creative people that is part of a minority group (LGBTQ, etnicity, religion, disability, gender, class, age etc). Everyone should have a place.

Click here to visit author official website.

The Orphan (The Kraften Trilogy #1) by Marcus Tallberg, Elin Frykholm
The Orphan
The Kraften Trilogy #1
by Marcus Tallberg, Elin Frykholm

The original novel was published in 2018.

After the Disaster, the ice caps are gone. The planet is toxic. The world's remaining superpowers have united as Ela, a para-military planet-nation governed by the authoritarian President Daegal. On a mission to restore the world to its pre-Disaster glory he rules the people of Ela by fear, violence and propaganda. Frequent terrorist attacks are blamed on the hated and hunted Tabia, people born with superhuman powers, who appeared after the Disaster.

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Marcus Tallberg and Elin Frykholm's The Orphan is a dystopian YA science fiction novel. It's the first novel in The Kraften Trilogy. It was first published in Swedish, but now it has been translated into English.

The Orphan is a welcome addition to the evergrowing genre of YA dystopian fiction, because it's an entertaining and gripping read. It pulls the reader in from the start with its captivating and strong story that is filled with good characterisation, fluent worldbuilding and immersive storytelling. I was positively surprised by this novel, because it's excellent and has a well-constructed story that has depth.

The story begins with Apsel taking care of Embla at the orphanage and receiving a mysterious guest who brings Freija to him and ask him to take care of her. Then, the story skips forward a few years to Freija's sixteenth birthday. Freija is worried about what will happen to her, because she is sixteen years old and knows that she will soon be assigned a job, but doesn't know where she'll end up. When the Bionbyr military officials arrive and begin to test people, Freija is drafted for service. Because EMES soldiers have good salary, Freija dreams of saving the orphanage with the money she will receive after her training. Soon, she notices that those who rule Ela have dark secrets and will do anything to keep them hidden...

It's great that the authors take time to introduce the characters and the setting and don't rush forward in haste. Unlike many other novels, this novel has depth and a feel of a real world to it that is missing from many novels. In my opinion, this novel is much more compelling and immersive than any other similar kind of novels I've read during the recent months due to the authors paying attention to gradually building up the story and allowing the readers to acquaint themselves with the protagonist before jumping into action. I truly appreciate this, because it's frustrating to read novels that lack depth and only have action in them.

The protagonist of this novel is Freija. She's a young woman who was mysteriously brought to the orphanage managed by Apsel. The woman who brought her told Apsel that she is special and asked him too take care of her. As the story moves forward, Freija grows as a person and thinks about the world and those that rule it. Her feelings and decisions are conveyed excellently to the reader.

The authors write well about the relationship between Freija and her orphan sister Embla. They love and take care of each other, but they're different from each other. Embla is a few years older than Freija, so she is like a big sister to Freija. I enjoyed reading about both of them.

I liked the way the authors write about the orphans and life at the orphanage, because their descriptions feel realistic. They tell with ease about how the orphans are overlooked by people and treated in a slightly indifferent way. I think that there are many readers out there who'll find it easy to identify with the orphans, because the orphans feel different from other people.

I find the worldbuilding excellent. The events take place in a dystopic future world where the ice caps have melted, the planet has become toxic and nothing is the same as before the Disaster. The world consists of different areas and a floating island of Bionbyr where the military school is located. The world's remaining superpowers have united as Ela, a para-military planet-nation governed by the authoritarian President Didrik Daegal, who rules the people of Ela by fear and propaganda. He blames Tabia - people born with superhuman powers - of terrorist attacks.

The world is a harsh place for people. When you become sixteen years old and finish school, you are assigned a job in a profession that is carefully chosen for each person. You don't have anything to say in this matter, because the Authority makes the decisions. If you are drafted into military service, you must obey the Authority.

Tabians, people who have powers, are treated badly in the world. They're locked in sanctuaries for their own good so that they can be controlled. They're believed to be extremely dangerous and people are obliged and encouraged to turn in those who they believe to be Tabians.

I was surprised by how fluently the authors write about Freija's military training and how she feels about being and studying at Bionbyr. It was interesting for me to read about how she trained, what kind of people she met at Bionbyr and how different Bionbyr was from the orphanage where she grew up. Her coming of age is handled in a realistic way, because she comes to realise that the world is a complex place.

I have to mention that the sugar glider that Freija acquaints herself with is a charming part of the story arc. I enjoyed reading about these scenes, because they were excellent and had surprising tenderness in them.

Although this novel is science fiction, it's also a story about change and how it affects people. It's also a tale about power and control. There are surprisingly many levels to the story, which I find compelling.

I have to mention that I'm pleased with the prose and its quality. The translation feels good and successful, because the expressions and sentences are fluent. I look forward to reading the sequel, because I was positively surprised by this novel.

Marcus Tallberg and Elin Frykholm's The Orphan is an excellent and well written dystopian YA science fiction novel. If you're in need of good YA speculative fiction to read or you're interested in dystopian novels, please take a look at this novel, because it's worth reading. It's similar to other YA dystopian novels, but also different from them in terms of depth and storytelling.

Excellent, gripping and immersive YA dystopian fiction!