ARC, Book Review

Dark Lullaby by Polly Ho-Yen

Firstly, a huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Lullaby is set in a world which has a 98% infertility rate, society has had to make some changes to pregnancy and parenting in order to ensure that the population doesn’t die out. Not only is the ‘induction’ process physically demanding on the women of the world, but once the baby is born parents are continuously watched and monitored to ensure that they are meeting the high standards of parenting, otherwise they risk losing their child. Despite witnessing the work of the OSIP firsthand, Kit thinks she is prepared for motherhood, but how far will she go to protect her child? 

I really enjoyed the way this story was told, with the chapters alternating between “then” and “now”. This built suspense brilliantly and made Kit’s story much more mysterious rather than giving the reader all the answers prematurely. I also loved the way the chapters would abruptly change in length at times, with some only lasting a couple of paragraphs in each one. Not only did this keep the pacing fresh but it also gave these scenes a sense of franticness and panic which was very effective at drawing me even further in. 

Through this alternating narrative, we also learn a lot about the state of the world that Kit is living in, and how it is still constantly changing. Which does a great job of highlighting how the people, both parents and OUTs can never let themselves be completely comfortable or at ease. As the rules of the world can change the moment you think you’re safe. What I also enjoyed about this particular narrative style was that this also gives you a greater insight into Kit’s development and going from an OUT to a mother. 

I thought Kit was a really interesting protagonist and we got to see a lot of the world and other people’s struggles through her, as well as seeing how she dealt with her own. I thought she was an incredibly strong character who showed us the two different sides of living in this world as a woman. Whilst I enjoyed seeing how Kit was dealing with what she was going through, especially from the unique perspective that she has from her change in status in society; I was also fascinated to see how her sister, Evie, coped with the stress of the OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting) once becoming a mother. To see the gradual change in her behaviour from doting, proud, mother to a paranoid one. Although Evie is a side character, Ho-Yen still develops her character and gives her as much nuance as a protagonist which I loved; it made her, and her relationship, with Kit much more authentic. 

Overall, I thought this was a really interesting take on the typical dystopian world and the first one I’ve seen tackle population crisis in this way. I was fascinated to read about a world in which infertility has become a worldwide problem and the extreme measures that the Governments go in order to protect the children that are born. This is a definite must read for any dystopian fan!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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