The High Ground is the first book in The Imperial Saga following Mercedes, heiress to the Emperor as she is taken to the High Ground to begin training to be a solider. It also follows the tale of Tracey, a young man facing almost impossible decisions for a young man his age who must learn to overcome his pride if he is to succeed. After finishing the book in one sitting I felt like the book had hit all of the science fiction markers while weaving in elements of a young adult novel.
Mercedes and Tracy are likeable and enjoyable characters to read facing the everyday trials and tribulations that all teenagers face; their parents want what is ultimately better for them with the teenagers being too young and naïve to realise. At first I wasn’t sure on Mercedes, not being a girly girl did make it slightly harder for me to identify with her but, the feeling of loss when leaving family I can heavily identify with (don’t ask me how I’m going to survive without them in Australia as I have no idea!). Tracey takes on the role of a more rebellious teenager who is not satisfied with the confines of his place within society and continually pushes what is deemed as socially acceptable. Their friendship, while expected from the reader’s point of view, startles them both and brings about the beginning of what promises to be an interesting and turbulent work and personal relationship.
It is not only their relationship in the book that we see develop but that of them and their peers also. Both of the main protagonists have their own struggles when trying to make friends or better yet, allies. Mercedes being the Infanta (heir to the thrown) finds that true friends as hard to find as deceit and power thirst make them unreliable. Tracey just finds it hard to make friends in general coming from the lowest rungs of society and must instead try to make allies in the beginning.
The deals with issues such as race (human or otherwise), society and social standing and the place of women within society and a military establishment; it is this final point that disappointed me. The book is set in the future which it is suggested follows our current day society so, if it does, why has the place of women been reduced to that of baby makers once again? The book states that the women needed to be protected so that they could produce more soldiers for the upcoming wars and to forge allegiances through marriage. Women have come a long way from this in 2016 to becoming equal members of society with as much or more authority in some aspects as a man so why in the future have women sat back and allowed this to happen, to be reduced to that once more? I loved the book but this really niggled me, surely women would have put up a fight instead of allowing them to reverted back in time? Mercedes attitude to prove all of her critics wrong is one of her strongest and most passionate attitudes in the book, rivalled only by Tracey’s attitude to succeed in a society hoping for him to fail.
But this is its only downfall in my eyes and even then it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading the book, it was only after I had finished reading that I started to question. I would recommend that people, everybody, you, buy the book. If it is a reflection of women’s journey through to equality then buy it as it is portraying the divide well and people should go on this journey with Mercedes and Tracey as they overcome the almost impossible odds set in front of them. I look forward to seeing the next steps their journey takes them on.