Rise of the Red Hand, by Olivia Chadha

shelvedamongthestars's review

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I'll be honest, I was very close to giving up on this book about 20% of the way in, purely due to difficulties with the prose (this is extremely unusual for me!) This was an ARC, so I am really hoping that major edits were made on the final edition. In the early chapters of the book, things were clunky enough on the sentence and paragraph level that I had trouble following the author's meaning, and there were a lot of info dumps that took away from my enjoyment of the story. Luckily, this didn't seem to be as much of a problem after the first few chapters, and the story drew me in enough that I was able to complete the book.
Given these challenges, it says a lot about the rest of the book that I decided to give it 4 stars. The story and world building really were amazing, overall, and this author clearly has a lot of promise. Something they did especially well was helping the reader visualize not only the interior spaces (fancy futuristic high-rise apartment units! Open-office plans but with literal "transparency"!), but also the overall geographical layout of the region. I also love sci-fi explorations of technology related to neural implants and cyborg-adjacent body modifications, and this is something the novel worked with in interesting and thought-provoking ways. The challenges and inequalities facing this fictional world are of course relevant to readers, but the novel doesn't rely on simplistic allegory - the world building is complex enough that it is interesting on its own merits, not just in relation to our 2021. The characters were engaging, too, though I think the romantic chemistry was kind of lacking (I was surprised by the fact that two of the main characters were suddenly a couple). Since I do enjoy a nice romantic subplot, myself, I feel this was a missed opportunity. Overall, though, I'd recommend this book and would like to read more of this story.

vickycbooks's review

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I was debating whether or not to write a review because, to be completely frank, I was pretty let down by RISE OF THE RED HAND.

It had potential--the underlying story of rebellion, class conflict, corrupt systems in politics and science were all inherently interesting. There's mechas! And hacking! What was happening in the world was interesting.

But the presentation of the underlying story just kind of muddled the essence of it, and made it difficult to understand and not as engaging as it should have been.

The worldbuilding was not to my taste. I'm not sure what really happened in the first half of the novel, and I genuinely feel like the story would have benefited a lot from being presented to us a little differently. Maybe if it began further along into the action and divulged information about the world as it becomes necessary. Starting the story when Kid Synth is Riz-Ali is taking the hacking challenge, and when the Narrows is being attacked.

It felt like the beginning was so broad, almost in that detached, adult sci-fi storytelling way. And that would have been fine, except it never fully committed to the more broad style. RISE OF THE RED HAND never really told the history of the world linearly in one place, and that's part of why it was so confusing in the beginning. It tried to fit it all into the current storyline.

We get repeated references to the world's history, but nothing direct enough that a casual reader can easily pick together. There's WWIII, the New Treaty, the Great Migration, something about a rare resource neo-something, a past nuclear conflict between America and the Middle East, a space colony, a pandemic, PAC (I still don't know what this stands for), the different places (Liminal? Narrows? Central? Rings?) and so much more. It's just so much background information, and it was just really difficult for me to get a clear sense of what was happening.

Maybe someone smarter & more dedicated than I am was able to get a better sense of it, but I felt like it could have been condensed more. Told on a need-to-know basis. The name of the resource kind of gets lost along the story, turning into "rare resources," and a lot of the history was never really relevant to the central story of Ashiva & the Red Hand.

I'm sure Chadha had reasons for doing things this way, but unfortunately it didn't work for me.

The actual meat of the story (especially everything happening from when Ashiva and Riz-Ali meet at the 50% mark) was a lot more clear--not the background info, but what was happening in the present. There's an infiltration plot and multiple rebellious movements happening. There's actions and fighting giant mechas.

And only near the end did I begin to fully understand the emotional notes of Ashiva & her little sister Taru's relationship, which could have been played up a lot more to be super evocative.

I think RISE OF THE RED HAND had so much potential, but something about the framing and worldbuilding posed a huge roadblock that I feel is stopping readers from understanding the heart of the story, the connections that are happening with Ashiva and Riz-Ali, Ashiva and her sister, Ashiva and her questionable mentor figure. These all got lost in the world and that was the biggest disappointment for me.

Content Warnings:
Spoilerviolence, class-conflict, genocide, death & murder, hostage, medical experimentation, body horror (mechas & cyborgs), use of ableist slurs (lame & dumb, casually by a minor-character), use of "obese" in the narration once

Also, quick pet peeve.

I wasn't a huge fan of how Chadha split the world into provinces—I understand why it was done, in a way, but I still wish this part of the worldbuilding was done differently. I was both a little unsettled by how large some of the regions were (Africa is just one large "African Province"? When it's like 30% larger with almost 2x as many people as North America?) as well as unsatisfied with how the regions were named.

Why is there an "American Province" and a "South American Province"? Wouldn't it be better than to say "North (or North and Central) American Province" instead? And why is there an "Asian Province" which is different from the "South Asian Province" and the "East Asian Province"?

Is this just ARC inconsistency (the "East Asian Province" is never mentioned until past the 3/4 mark of the story), or is the worldbuilding super sloppy? I can't tell.

1sarai's review

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The premise of this novel sounded intriguing. Dystopia, cyborgs, battle, adventure. All good things I do enjoy reading. Where this book fell short was the over amount of information dumped on the reader at the beginning. In all honesty, I almost put this book down thinking I would not be able to enjoy it anymore but I gave it a chance and finished it. Halfway through the book is when things got interesting and the story finally picked up. I'm sad that it took that long to get to the good stuff and I wish we received that from the first part of the book. The second half of the book was enjoyable. I do wish the action sequences were more played out. They felt really short lived. That and the information dump at the beginning forced me to give it a 3.5 star rating. Hopefully the rest of this series will play out better.
If you like this type of novel I do recommend checking it out for yourself but just be ready to receive a-lot of information before the story even starts.

Thank you Netgalley and Erewhon Books for an advance copy of this book.

mousereads's review

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rise of the Red Hand was an interesting dystopian in that we were able to see things from both sides. However, I think because of this dual view, we also lost a lot of the world building and understanding of what's going on in this future. As this is a series, I think there's some room for forgiveness with regards to this, but nothing about the initial story made me want to find out more. It was this strange in-between of not being given enough information, and being given just enough that made me go "meh." My biggest issue, and this is often the case in these books, was with the romance. There was honestly no point or reasoning behind it. It happened extremely quickly, and the characters chemistry didn't warrant this. I was confused when it started, and even more confused by how quickly it became intense. The two main characters are going through something troubling and groundbreaking. They're from two completely different sides of this fight. Yet, they very quickly fall in love and are infatuated with one another. This really is what kept this from being a higher rated book for me, and is unfortunately what a lot of the characters actions hinged upon.

itnotmackenzie's review

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3.5 - wanted to LOVE it but it fell a little short.
you can find my full review here:

bringerofbooks's review

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Rise of the Read Hand primarily follows the story of Ashiva and Riz-Ali (with a smattering of additional characters as well)set in a utopia/dsytopia cyberpunk-esque South Asia where two populations are at odds.

The Uplanders, including Riz-Ali and his family, live luxurious lives within the Ring, a biodome free from the outside world's threats. The rest of the population, such as Ashiva, struggle to get by with a threats such as unbreathable air, deadly viruses and diseases, and rising sea levels threatening to destroy their adopted home.

Ashiva works for the Red Hand as a smuggler, deeply entwined in the Red Hand's fight against the government in the SA Province. When Ashiva and Riz-Ali cross paths, they both become embroiled in something bigger than they ever expected to find - horrifying conspiracies on both sides.

Overall, I REALLY was entranced with the world-building. The author brought the world to life so well, it really made the book what it was. The characters were relatable and realistic.

However - as much as I loved the story and the world-building, I didn't love the ending. The end of the book seemed extremely rushed compared to the rest of the book, like the author was just wanting to finish it quickly to be done with it. I didn't feel the connection at the end anymore, and that was really disappointing.

I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel!

Thanks to NetGalley and Erewhon Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

bubblewombat's review

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Oh how I wanted to love this book. I think that's really what kept me going, but more on that later.

I'm 99% sure the release date on NetGalley said the 19th but Goodreads has two dates, depending on the edition, so I'm doing this in between both of them, probably should've done it even earlier BUT.

I really thought this would be a four star read AT LEAST...and then I started reading it.

I could tell even by the first page that the writing would bug me. It started off very monotone and didn't fit with the whole atmosphere, so it made it hard for me to care that these bad things were happening.

What didn't make it any easier is that the reader gets thrown directly into the action. Sure, it gets mellowed out in the next few chapters, but chapter one was a big confusing mess. There was a sad scene in it, where I thought we were getting somewhere...and I was wrong.

The first half (literally the entire half) dragged on forever. I'm not one to drop books, I will push through, but Rise of the Red Hand really tested my patience. It took so long to get back to the action we initially saw.

The second half picks up dramatically. It's as if the author was taking a nap, suddenly woke up and remembered that something needs to happen.

If I was judging based on that alone, yeah, I could see it hit four stars. Unfortunately I can't disregard the boring first part.

As for the characters, I had no attachment until the final third or so. Only Taru managed to find her way into my heart. And I'm getting lgbt vibes from her? Maybe I'm wrong, I'd still like to see that.

Our two main leads got more likable as the story progressed. I don't mind their love that much because it's barely there. They also fit together like puzzle pieces.

I like that the side characters had a role to play and weren't just there once for convenience.

The setting was great and one we need more of. I love love love all the real and made up words. It's not hard to guess what they mean even if you don't speak a language rooted in Sanskrit (then again you can trace just about anything to it but you know what I mean).

So I'm glad I didn't drop this book. There's a story to be told and I might pick up the sequel when it comes out. It's worth the read if you have the patience.

*Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review*

jenabrownwrites's review

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unquietlibrarian's review

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Check out my blog for the full review.

A big thanks to Olivia Chadha, Erewhon Books and Netgalley for the digital ARC of this book!

The world is dying; bombs and pollution have made the air toxic and the sea has swallowed up whole cities. In the South Asian Province, the lucky few who are deemed worthy get to live in Central, a climate-controlled biodome with fresh air and technology that can keep them young and healthy. The rest of the population live in the slums surrounding it, struggling to survive by any means necessary. Ashiva, a member of the revolutionaries fighting for the citizens, and Riz-Ali, a hacker living in Central, seem like an unlikely pair. Together, they will fight to protect their communities at all costs, even if it means going head-to-head with their province’s government.

I was excited to read my first climate-fiction book (cli-fi as I recently learned). The premise was intriguing; secret revolutionary groups in a dystopian future, cybernetically enhanced people, biodomes to fight toxic pollution, it all sounds fascinating. I think that the author Olivia Chadha put a great amount of effort in building a vibrant futuristic world affected by human-made climate disasters. Ashiva is a strong female character, and I loved that she is not some perfect cookie-cutter heroine. She is a war-torn and resilient as you would have to be when living in the slums surrounded by death and poverty. Riz-Ali was a great contrast to Ashiva, being one of the privileged citizens living in Central and having grown up in wildly different circumstances. The story Olivia Chadha built and the characters she filled it with is wildly imaginative and full of potential.

I wasn’t a big fan of the switching narratives between chapters. It made sense to move between Ashiva and Riz-Ali, but there were also chapters featuring Taru, a third character I was not expecting. I found that it became a bit tricky to follow each storyline, especially with all of the details and secondary characters that are included in the book. At certain points it was hard to follow exactly what was happening, because there were so many other details to remember in order to keep the story straight. The sheer amount of detail Olivia Chadha managed to pack into this first book is incredible, I just had trouble retaining it all at once, and this made it difficult to immerse myself in the story.

The Rise of the Red Hand is a book with many levels. It is rich in cultural elements which brings the futuristic South Asia to life. The author’s exploration of climate change, class disparity and rebellion against governmental agencies is nuanced and thoroughly explored. Maybe it’s my personal inexperience with science-fiction that made it harder for me to get through this book. It might potentially take me a second read-through to really appreciate it to it’s full extent. I will still recommend this book to Science-Fiction enthusiasts who are looking to start a promising new series.

yourtitakate's review

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Oof. I'm really sad I didn't like this more. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021.

Unfortunately, while the elements of a really good and kickass sci-fi dystopia were there, the rest of the book ultimately fell flat.

Things I liked:
➽ The South Asian representation was phenomenal. I'm not South Asian myself, but I do think that own voices readers will be able to appreciate the book from this angle.
➽ The plot was really good. I found myself eager to find out what happens next and how the book ends.

Things I disliked:
➽ Pretty much everything else?
➽ All kidding aside, the world-building was pretty much infodump after infodump after infodump. I alternated being confused with what was going and being totally and utterly bored out of my mind.
➽ The political entities make no sense. I get that the author was trying to make a case of the governments of the world devolving into region-based units, but why is there a South Asian Province while the rest of Asia is lumped into an Asian Province? Why is all of Africa lumped into one African Province? These big continents.
➽ The writing quality was just really clunky.
➽ I'm normally a fan of slow pacing but this was just glacial.
➽ I could not connect to any of the characters at all. I wouldn't have minded this so much if they'd at least managed to connect to each other, but the two MCs had no chemistry whatsoever.

Overall, this book felt like a chore to get through, which is really disappointing to me. However, if everything I pointed out is not a deterrent to you to read a book, I would highly suggest checking out this book anyway because the premise is really good and, of course, we do need more South Asian books out there!

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