Review: Prototype by M.D. Waters

(Cover image and summary courtesy of Goodreads)

Emma looks forward to the day when she can let go of her past—both of them. After more than a year on the run, with clues to her parents’ whereabouts within her grasp, she may finally find a place to settle down. Start a new life. Maybe even create new memories with a new family.

But the past rises to haunt her and to make sure there’s nowhere on the planet she can hide. Declan Burke wants his wife back, and with a little manipulation and a lot of reward money, he’s got the entire world on his side. Except for the one man she dreads confronting the most: Noah Tucker.

Emma returns to face what she’s done but finds that the past isn’t the problem. It’s the present—and the future it represents. Noah has moved on and another woman is raising their daughter.

In the shocking conclusion to M.D. Waters’s spectacular debut, Emma battles for her life and her freedom, tearing down walls and ripping off masks to reveal the truth. She’s decided to play their game and prove she isn’t the woman they thought she was. Even if it means she winds up dead. Or worse, reborn.

In December, I reviewed Archetype and really enjoyed it. The twist ending really took me by surprise and introduced a lot of great conflict to get me salivating for the sequel. And… lo and behold, here it is! I stayed up all night finishing this book, because even though I knew how the story would end, I had no idea how the author was going to get there. There’s a lot of pulse pounding action scenes, but the sexual/romantic tension between Emma and Noah was the driving force behind the novel for me (I approve, by the way).

The ending of Archetype inevitably set Emma up for heated confrontations with both her exes. She sees Noah again fairly early on, and boy, the tension. It’s a delicious slow burn in a way that few romance novels I’ve read recently have been able to master – there’s actually very little physical contact between them until the last quarter of the book. But M.D. Waters did a fantastic job setting up the individual and collective histories of the characters to the point where I was aching for them to end up together. It was frustrating, but in a good way, and the character interaction really did turn out to be the biggest strength of the novel.

But Prototype is far from being the “Noah and Emma Show.” Foster, Leigh and Miles stole the limelight quite a few times. I loved the way the supporting cast easily reconciled who Emma was before to who she is now, accepting all the similarities and differences without question. Similarly, the book is good at addressing a lot of really important social issues – sexism, existentialism, medical ethics – in a narrow but still heartfelt and nuanced way. Even more than a week after I finished the novel, I still find myself reflecting on the questions it raised about the human condition. Prototype covers a fair amount of physical ground, too, and Emma’s narration, although stiff, paints vivid pictures of the harsh and beautiful world that she lives in.

Still, my biggest criticism of Prototype is the fact that it never sufficiently analyzes the infertility crisis or challenges the Super Patriarchy Plus that accompanied it. Emma gets her happily ever after and decides to live out her life on an isolated beach away from humanity, yay her, but… all those other women who are treated like chattel… sucks for them, eh? That was a huge letdown for me; Waters created this elaborate, futuristic world but didn’t deconstruct it afterward. I think if Waters had replaced the “Emma finding her parents” subplot (which I wasn’t all that fond of anyway – the revelations came way out of left field) with more of a cohesive conclusion that resolved some of the societal ills she explored, I would’ve given this novel a perfect 5 stars. But there were still shades of the “a woman’s greatest duty is to be a mother and wife” cliche in the narrative, which struck me as a tad ironic considering the plot.

Sonya and Declan were also baffling to me. Declan had shades of psychosis in the first book, but I can’t even begin to describe the way he devolved and how quickly it happened. As for Sonya… well. She makes some choices that I definitely saw coming, but couldn’t for the life of me explain in any reasonable way. She’s an intelligent, compassionate woman who turns into a hysterical harpy because of a man. And I just… the mind boggles. Again, there was some really interesting material to explore here re: the characterization of the antagonists, but they transformed into the worst kind of caricatures. It sucked a lot of the gravity out of the climax, honestly.

Prototype is a satisfying conclusion to this innovative, thought provoking sci-fi thriller, with the perfect blend of romance and cynicism to satisfy me. But I can’t help thinking that just a few more tweaks could’ve taken this book to a whole different level. 4/5 Stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Dutton Books, in exchange for an honest review. 

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