The Diminished: You Cannot Put It Down

Aside from bestsellers, I rarely read Young Adult novels. So I’m not going to try to sell YA fans—especially YA fantasy fans— on The Diminished. Those readers will find this book on their own and I believe it will become an instant classic for them. You read mainstream fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction, sci-fi? You are going to want to own this book.

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson is an incredibly talented writer. As a writer myself, it’s hard for me to read a book without analyzing the sentence composition and the pacing of a book now. Patterson’s prose is so good that entire chapters would pass without me noticing I was even reading… I was completely sucked into the plot. And coming from someone who doesn’t read much fantasy beyond the classics, this is a huge compliment, because never once did I have to pull myself out of the story to try to understand the world-building.

The Diminished is the story of Vi and Bo, both born into a post-cataclysmic, earth-like world where nearly everyone has a twin. The interconnectedness of twins is such that if one dies, the other almost always grieves to death within a short period of time; most people cannot survive the loss of their other half. I say ‘most people’ because in the rare case that a bereaved twin doesn’t simply pine away, they eventually become unstable. Prone to gruesome and unpredictable violence, the titular Diminished—those who’ve lost their twins— are shunned by society. 

Vi’s twin died in infancy and, remarkably, she’s managed to avoid the murderous insanity exhibited by most of the Diminished. She’s now sixteen and about to be cast out of the loveless temple where she was raised. Bo, on the other hand, is one of the very few singleborn of his generation, and is destined to rule the Alskad Empire. Although neither of them realizes it, the fate of their society rests on a shared secret from their past. 

In some ways, the world of TD is a relatively egalitarian one. No one bats an eye at same-sex relationships or racial differences; women hold positions of power in roughly the same or greater ratios than men. But at its heart this is a dystopian story; the strongest thematic component of the book is the examination of the deep class inequalities that permeate the Empire.

(Side note: Along with fabulous descriptions of the clothes and scenery of the Alskad Empire, I also loved the frequent food-based winks the author threw out: I finally had to contact Patterson to ask if she’s a foodie in IRL. The meals the characters enjoy are so inventive and delicious!)

Bottom line: I cannot recommend this book enough, and I am chafing at the wait for the second in the series. You will not regret buying it.

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Kimmery is the author of The Queen of Hearts (2018, Penguin). She's also a doctor, mother, author interviewer, traveler, and obsessive reader. You can read Kimmery's book recommendations and reviews at kimmerymartin.com.