Captive by A.J. Grainger
Captive tells the story of sixteen-year-old, Robyn Elizabeth Knollys-Green, the Prime Minister’s daughter. Kidnapped and held hostage by a mysterious yet seemingly gentle boy, she discovers some dark truths that threaten to change everything she’s ever known. Grainger knows how to ratchet up the tension. We get just enough insight into Robyn’s family and life to before she’s kidnapped quite early on in the story; a great contrast in establishing what and who she has lost. The tension accumulates gradually like a rising wave, demanding the reader’s attention. It’s a breath of fresh air in a market that has become dominated in recent years with vampires, dystopia and fantasy.
Robyn, as the first person-narrator, is in direct harmony with the story. Her thoughts, her feelings, her perceptions; they all need to be felt first-hand versus the loss of the closeness to Robyn and her emotions that would be lost in third-person. Her narration sets her tone and her age. We experience her resentment of her father’s position and the discord within her family as if we were there. When she’s being held captive, we see a development in her character, the desire to survive; that one element that keeps her fighting. We get, in ways a more resilient Robyn, but also a more vulnerable narrator.
While I like the narrative technique, I did feel like we were getting 80% of Robyn. I thought Grainger could have cranked the dial up to 100% and pushed it further.
“If looking like a boiled sweet were in this season, Michael would be right on trend.”
We get some great sharp descriptions that illuminate Robyn’s character though I wanted more. I wanted there to be no doubt in my mind who Robyn is before she’s kidnapped. What Grainger does sensationally though, is to capture the intricate little details -the traumas, the heightened awareness to pain and sensation, to her senses, her perception of her kidnappers and her environments – beautifully. She crafts Feather, Scar and Talon through their gestures and tones of voice.
Quality of Writing: 18/20
The writing veers dangerously into that area of excessive detail. Sometimes, it just needs to be snipped a bit to get to the point. Aside, from that, the story is told in poetic detail. I love tht Grainger changes it up and the first page of the story is perfect:
“Paris. The coldest winter in thirty years. The shivering limbs of trees pierce the deadened sky in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Ice clings to the abdomen of the Eiffel Tower. My father’s blood is a vivid stain on the white-laced pavement outside the hotel. In the distance, the sirens scream, but they are too far away.”
I love how Grainger personifies the trees and the Eiffel Tower and then, in direct contrast, distorts them with the striking image of Robyn’s father bleeding in the snow.
One of my favourite lines:
“‘Words are a powerful weapon. A single word can change a destiny. You wouldn’t waste a bullet – or a nuclear warhead. Don’t waste a word.'”
After the incident in Paris, we are placed at Number 10 Downing Street, an iconic address that most, if not all, will be familiar with. Grainger’s descriptions are so vivid that one might think she lived there at a point in time. The accuracy of the real-life Downing Street furnishings is irrelevant if she can make the reader believe it. When they go to visit their grandparents, the journey they take anchors us in Central London, giving non-Londers all that they need to set up the scene and picture the River Thames, Westminster Abbey and Parliament.
Comparative Literature: 10/10
I haven’t read anything quite like this. I’ve read stories where characters are kidnapped or taken hostage but never a story where we get to witness a character’s physical, mental and psychological trauma. It’s fresh and new; a story that deserves to be told.
NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:
- A fast-paced, rollercoaster ride of deception, survival and love
- Poetic detail that will anchor you in the moment
- A protagonist that the reader will empathize with
Overall Score: 95/100