Book Review: The Believer by Stephanie Black

I've read all of Stephanie's books, and even though this was her first it was just as good as the others. When did she learn and hone her craft? It seems Stephanie just exploded onto the LDS literary scene fully developed and with as much talent as many writers who have spent years improving book-by-book.

The Believer is set in a dystopian society, "New America", set up three generations ago by revered men of high ideals and great ambition. Those who have to live in the society they created strive to be "patriotic" even if this means shunning anyone who has fallen even slightly below the required standard, not making a fuss when your mother is euthanised because the state doesn't have the resources to treat her illness, or even turning over your family for torture, imprisonment and execution for the crime of believing in God.

Stephanie creates a very effective and disturbing atmosphere, partly by having the protagonist, Ian Roshek, someone very ordinary and easy to identify with, and partly through little clues in the text. Whilst it isn't stated outright, it seems everyone lives in strictly-monitored tiny apartments. I found it telling that all the towns and landmarks are named after the man who founded New America, his family and closest associates, but you have to be paying fairly close attention to notice. Little clues like this really help build a picture of New America and what life there might be like.

I suspect there is a political warning message in there somewhere too, but being British it was completely lost on me. Not that that stopped me enjoying the book.

I liked the fact that it is completely unpredictable too. Four pages from the end I still had no idea what would happen. All the way through I expected a romance which never happened (although in my head it does after the book ends) and I was delighted that the book ended on a cliffhanger. All too often it seems that editors and publishers want everything tidied up nicely at the end (I speak from bitter experience, having recently had to rewrite the ending of one of my books), but life isn't like that. Good for Stephanie for leaving the reader to reach their own conclusion about what happens next. I am not going to clamour for a sequel just in case the happy ending (complete with romance) in my head isn't what Stephanie chooses to write.


  1. Thank you so much for the great review! As far as your first question about where I learned my craft . . . just ask me how long it took me to write this book :) I rewrote The Believer countless times over the course of many, many years and read many, many writing technique books.


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