About the Book
Raised by her mother and Maeve on Slanbeg, an island off the west coast of Ireland, Orpen has a childhood of love and stories by the fireside. But the stories grow darker, and the training begins. Ireland has been devoured by a ravening menace known as the skrake, and though Slanbeg is safe for now, the women must always be ready to run, or to fight.
When Maeve is bitten, Orpen is faced with a dilemma: kill Maeve before her transformation is complete, or try to get help. So Orpen sets off, with Maeve in a wheelbarrow and her dog at her side, in the hope of finding other survivors, and a cure. It is a journey that will test Orpen to her limits, on which she will learn who she really is, who she really loves, and how to imagine a future in a world that ended before she was born.
Last Ones Left Alive is the story of Orpen as she seeks to find a way to survive in the dystopian world she now lives in. She had been somewhat sheltered and protected from the skrake by her mother. Maeve made sure that Orpen knows how to fight, how to survive but Orpen has never had a need to put what she’s learnt into practice until now. Maeve has been bitten and Orpen has had to leave the safety of the only home she’s ever known and risk what is out there in the wider world.
This isn’t my usual kind of read but I absolutely loved it. Orpen is such a great character – she is so feisty and tenacious and I was rooting for her all the way through the book. She is so determined to survive and to find a way to thrive in this new world.
This novel is really bleak a lot of the time but never depressing because of Orpen’s strength. The dystopian landscape of Slanbeg is devastating, nothing is as it was before, and the fear of the mysterious skrake is ever present. I found the monstrous creatures terrifying, it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat whenever Orpen had to stop and rest for a while. Orpen has learnt how to kill though and she is fearless in her fight to survive, she will do whatever it takes to save herself.
Orpen is ultimately trying to find Phoenix City; she has heard her mum and Maeve whispering about it, and she’s read about it in snippets of papers she’s found when looking for food. This takes on an almost mythical feel in the book as Orpen struggles to find any reference on the road to this place. The sense of isolation and loneliness, and also the frustration she feels at seemingly being so close and yet so far from her where she wants to get to is tangible.
I really connected with Orpen over the loss of her mother; it’s an awful thing to lose your mum, especially when you’re young. I did feel like there were parallels to the grieving process in the battle with the very real skrake. The way you can never feel okay when grief is still so raw because the moment you relax it hits you again with full force. Eventually you have to find peace with the loss and accept that you can’t have the person back, you have to learn to live without them. It felt as if Orpen’s journey was mirroring this experience and she was growing stronger and coping better as time moved on.
I loved the exploration of humanity throughout Last Ones Left Alive. Maeve has done what she can to teach Orpen how to survive – she’s taught her how to kill the Skrake and made sure she has skills in finding food and shelter but no one has taught Orpen about what it is to be truly alone, and how to hold on to who she is in the midst of being on her own. She becomes quite brittle and fierce in her approach to potentially meeting other survivors, it’s as if she’s forgotten how to build relationships. Some of it is the all-consuming focus on the basic need to survive but I think part of it is that she has learnt how to protect herself so well that she no longer knows how to let people in. I was rooting for her to survive but also to get to a place where she could find some happiness and peace.
Last Ones Left Alive is a book about the inherent desire to survive, but also to thrive in the environment we find ourselves in. It’s brutal and heartbreaking at times but it’s also beautiful and impossible to put down! I highly recommend this one!
Many thanks to Tinder Press for my copy of the book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.
Last Ones Left Alive is out now and available here.
About the Author
Sarah Davis-Goff was born and raised in Ireland. After going to college in the US and UK, she eventually returned, and now lives in Dublin. Last Ones Left Alive is her debut novel.
You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs: