Niko: One can live for several weeks without food but only a few days without water, a fact seventeen-year-old Niko is only too aware of as she struggles to provide for her two younger brothers in a post-apocalyptic landscape where the rain burns like acid, food grows increasingly scarce and any Slither that crosses her path is laid low before it can sink its teeth into her.
Then one night everything she’d ever worked for and loved is consumed by a raging fire, leaving her with one brother missing, the other dead and herself gravely injured.
She’s rescued by the Rose Circle, a rogue group of Slither hunters. They sneak her into Amaryllis City, a decadent metropolis where those able to pay the exorbitant entrance fee live a life of relative ease.
But for Niko, Amaryllis City is not the haven she grew up believing it would be and her unique abilities as a Slither hunter make her a particularly visible target to a city with hopes of experimentation, replication and other nasty bits.
All Niko ever wanted to do was find her baby brother, but that’s proving to be harder than expected.-Goodreads
Niko’s main appeal is that the main character is a take-no-prisoners African-American female that manages to avoid being a walking cliché. Niko is strong, self-confident, loves her family and hasn’t let the world destroy her down into a piece of numb nothing. She’s got a somewhat rare ability to kill Slithers, but the author resists the urge to turn her into the next Alice. (Which is an almost inevitable comparison, with that gorgeous red dress and the post-apocalyptic world.) By the way, Niko’s cover is kick-ass. Whoever designed it did a great job, both in line and color choice.
However, Niko herself isn’t the only thing that Niko has going for it. The world it takes place in is interesting. Kayti Nika Raet gives us the broad strokes of a society permanently altered by a heinous mistake. She gives us the factions we’re used to in this type of YA novel without going as in-depth as most authors tend to do. Niko hits all the right YA post-apocalyptic / dystopian notes without being yet another dystopian novel. From the main character to the Slithers themselves, most things about Raet’s world kept my interest. (The explanation for the Slithers was interesting.) I deviate from the norm here because I rather enjoyed that the author didn’t go into pages upon pages of description whereas most readers seem to want exactly the opposite.
While there is some element of attraction in the book, it doesn’t come anywhere near the usual over-charged hormonal ‘forget the end of the world; I needs you.’ I appreciated the fact that the emphasis was on Niko finding her brother, figuring out the dynamics of the city, and adapting to her new world.
This was a well-written story that kept my attention while I sped through it. At 205 pages, it’s not a book that requires a huge time commitment. I loved the way the author turned water against humanity. There are several books in the series, and one can only hope the author continues to show her not-inconsiderable talent in each of them.
Overall, Niko is a strong first book from Kayti Nika Raet. It’s not perfect, but for a début work, it deserves attention. For the fact that – thank you (insert deity here) – it’s a fantastic African-American female in the lead role in a post-apocalyptic work, and it needs to be recognized. We need more Michonnes and Nikos in our post-apocalyptic writing.