This Cruel Design
The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.
Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing–Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.
When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.
But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind.
“There’s nowhere to hide when you’re running from yourself”
This Cruel Design picks up right after TMC, Cat is still trying to gain control of her own mind and heal, while finding a way to stop Lachlan. She is with Cole and Leoben, and more of Jun Bei’s memories are starting to become clearer. Cat is no longer sure of who she actually is, the line between them had been breached and with everything happening to her- she can no longer tell them apart. Jun Bei’s character rises at times and along with-it memories and even private codes. Jun Bei as we realise is an astounding coder capable of things even Lachlan struggled to achieve, she is a blade, sharp and precise and strong.
When Cat finds out that the plague has mutated once again, and the vaccine is no longer working against it- she realises her battle is not over. Forced to ally with Cartaxus, Cat, Cole, Lee and the others race against time to find Lachlan and get the vaccine rewritten- as he is the only one capable of understanding his daemon codes. More revelations are unearthed, and relationships are stretched during their search in Entropia. As Cat makes new discoveries and gets answers about her past, she also struggles with the grip on her mind that could just threaten to end her.
This Cruel Design blew my mind, almost literally. It was filled with secrets, betrayals, twists and so much more- it was crazy. It was easier to follow compared to TMC given that I am already familiarised with the situation and setting, I could even relate more with the characters, which was amazing. The style of writing was smooth and understandable- and even when I was confused it was usually when Cat was too. The book also further explored the science aspects especially in Entropia. It is an interesting location- in a desert- and unique, filled with gene hackers, whom skills were astounding.
Cat’s character has definitely gone through so much on a whole, she isn’t even technically a real person. She was Jun Bei. Her personal journey and battle for answers to her past and who she is as an individual drew me deeper into her character. Her resilience and determination- fuelled by her anger tended to be dangerous and it was clear she was losing control of her own mind- and she was terrified, however, she dealt with the challenges and stuck to her morals as well as she could.
As her memories become clearer, we also glimpse Jun Bei from a less judgemental POV, to see the scarred and frightened young girl who had also been forced, tortured and experimented on since birth- even without Jun Bei’s character making a physical appearance, I felt sympathy and even affection towards her.
However, Cole’s character did not live up to expectations in This Cruel Design. He began to seem more distant and secretive, particularly once Anna showed up. His relationship with Cat also became very stretched and fragile. It was dangerous territory, mostly. We gain more insight on the children of the Zarathusra Initiative too, like Anna. She is Cole’s biological sister and happens to also be a black-out agent, having a feisty and snappish attitude, towards Cat in particular. Anna sees Jun Bei in Cat, the girl who had hurt her and abandoned her.
A character I did truly love is- Leoben. He accepted Cat as his sister. Cat may have once been Jun Bei, but she wasn’t truly anymore and regardless of the change in her appearance and character, Lee saw Cat as his sister and loved her, which, honestly was touching to read. In a nutshell, they actually seemed to form their own dysfunctional family, together. I don’t have much to say about Dax. I am not a huge fan of his character anyways, but Mato piqued my interest almost immediately.
From the beginning Cat had felt an ease towards him and chalked it up to Jun Bei’s past, but she couldn’t get any solid memories of him and Mato himself was a shady person with exceptional coding skills. Of course, when he did come clean (sort of) it was another plot twist and lead to another chain of events. It was absolutely crazy, and I loved every bit of it.
I guess the only part that I still didn’t completely enjoy would be the romance. It got annoying after awhile and seemed to disrupt the plot more than elevate it. I did find some chapters overwhelming but I got over that pretty quickly. Cat also makes a load of stupid decisions, which are irreversible, however, they are done in the heat of the moment and with the pressure and bare knowledge she has when faced with the problem- so I’ll let it slide.
I do also wish that This Cruel Design had taken on more varied settings as they seem to switch between a couple of fixed locations- maybe that would have provided a deeper first-hand insight on the broken, ravaged and plagued world that Cat has given up everything to save. Personally, I was also creeped out and reasonably shocked once Mato’s true character stepped into light- but I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll hold the rest back.
This Cruel Design absolutely nailed it as the second instalment to the trilogy, with its politics, action, betrayals, bonds and personal struggles, I am contented with this amazing Sci-Fi novel and am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to Cat’s journey- ‘This Vicious Cure’. I hope it is as good as This Mortal Coil and This Cruel Design; I need a satisfying ending. The ending, of This Cruel Design was unexpected. I am honestly still dumbfounded and trying to get a grip. I am currently bouncing in anticipation and excitement for the conclusion to the series.
Recommended: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian Fantasy
You can purchase This Cruel Design at:
Check Out My Review For ‘This Mortal Coil’, the first book in the trilogy: