Book Review: The Collar and the Cavvarach by Annie Douglass Lima

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Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Have you ever imagined slavery?

I don’t mean imagining slavery as a historical institution, long gone.  Have you ever thought about what it would be like if slavery existed here and now, in modern-day first world nations? – what it would be like if you knew families with slaves? – or had some yourself? – or even if you were one yourself?  What would that look like?  What would it feel like?

That is the kind of world Annie Douglass Lima paints for us in The Collar and the Cavvarach.

This is a young adult alternate reality novel, set in a world very much like contemporary Earth.  The characters do yard work, eat burgers, work out…all the familiar things we do in our own culture.  Aside from the names of the countries and the political setup, there are only two major ways this world is different than our modern day culture.  The first difference is that slavery is legal and pervasive – hence the collar in the title and on the cover, because slaves are fitted with metal collars around their necks for identification.  The second is that there is a major sport called cavvara shil, which draws droves of people to watch tournaments live and on TV – hence the weapon named and pictured, the cavvarach (pronounced “CAV-uh-rack”).

Because the world is so familiar otherwise, it brought slavery alive for me in a way I’ve never considered before.  It’s one thing to think about people a long time ago being enslaved, but it’s very different when you imagine “the boy next door” as a slave.  It was eye-opening for me – and it was a compelling, exciting story to boot!

All the main characters seemed fully-fledged and had rich inner lives of their own.  I was immediately fond of all the “good guys” and rooted for them all the way, despite their flaws and poor decisions.  Bensin was winsome and relatable, and although some young children in books come across shallow and artificial, his sister Ellie seemed genuine to me.  I also loved the multiple honest, upright adult characters in the novel; all too often YA books are populated with adults who are clueless, stubborn, mean, don’t listen to the teen characters, and often just stand in the way of the “real hero,” the young adult.  Here, we get to know the adults as well as the teen character, so we see misunderstandings from both sides, and I really appreciated having adult perspective on the story as well as Bensin’s.

There was nothing objectionable in this book from all that I remember.  The closest it comes to “adult content” is the subtle insinuation that certain slave buyers are creeps or perverts, and that would probably go right over younger readers’ heads.

In Short…

The bottom line is, this was a clean young adult read that kept me rooting for the characters and turning pages all the way to the end, and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially teens who are looking for a thought-provoking read!

Click here to buy it on Amazon Kindle.

Click here to visit Annie Douglass Lima’s blog and find out more about her and her books.

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1 Comment

  1. Such a mouthful of a title…
    But I’ll have to check it out!


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