Author: Bethany Atazadeh
Rating: 4/5 Stars
As anyone who knows me is probably aware by now, Evalene’s Number
was Book of the Year for me. I tore through that baby in about two days because of how much I loved the plot, prose, and characters. I couldn’t get enough of EN and I was so overjoyed I wouldn’t have long to wait for the sequel! I was fortunate enough to get to read the first 5 chapters of Pearl’s Number early, and then to receive an ARC copy, which I was finally able to carve out time to read – and finished in a day!
Pearl’s Number is an incredible sequel that doesn’t shy away from the tough angles of family, society, free will, and consequence. I. Loved. It.
Pearl’s Number takes place in a world, and with a heroine, who are both still reeling from the changes that took place in the end of Evalene’s Number.
When Evalene discovers her mother Pearl is still alive despite all evidence to the contrary over the years, she leaves her political position to go and find her – perhaps even to bring her home. Along for the ride are Jeremiah, her companion, guide, and love interest; Olive, her best friend, flexing her wings to experience freedom for the first time; and Sol, formerly a cog in the numbers system who’s learning to become his own man. Together, the foursome set off to search for Pearl in the Divided States – what was once America.
But finding Pearl is more of a battle than Evie and company might’ve prepared for. And even if they find her, Evie must face the possibility that all this time, she may not have a place in her mother’s life anymore.
In sequels, you often run the risk of character inconsistencies, or that they will have changed just enough in tone both narratively and characteristically that something will feel juuuust slightly off. Thankfully there is no hint of this issue in Pearl’s Number.
Evie remains a strong, loveable protagonist with her own strengths and weaknesses. It’s so much fun to continuously see her struggling to overcome the damage the numbers system did on her sense of self-worth and esteem. The self-assured woman continues to rise and flourish from the ashes of the survivor abused by the system, and that’s such a fun thing to see. In this book we watch Evie grow and flourish, learning to trust her instincts and make tough choices. She’s in more of a position of leadership this time around which comes with its share of challenges, and she’s not afraid to ask for council and then act. There was such a potential for her to be either arrogant (because it was her quest) or to be a pushover (because she’s not used to being the one in charge); yet Atazadeh strikes a beautiful balance where Evie feels like a real person learning to be in charge of herself and of a mission. It was so much fun to behold!
In addition to Evie, we once again had the pleasure of Jeremiah’s POV. Having narrowly escaped death in the previous book, Jeremiah remains torn at the prospect of being called into a position of power in Eden. But he’s constantly challenged by his friends as to why that frightens him so much, and I just loved seeing Jeremiah’s arc of self-growth – facing his fear and deciding whether or not to come out of the shadows. I won’t spoil his decision, but I will say it felt wholly satisfying! In addition, we get a broader glimpse at the kind of man Jeremiah was before Lady Beryl took him in, and let me just say: Chapter 36 is my favorite of all time. SO GOOD.
We also get a better understanding of Olive in this book, which was necessary and LOVED. When we first meet Olive in EN, she has a strong presence but there’s not much time given to her backstory other than that, as a natural-born baby, she’s an anomaly on the island of Hofyn and therefore subject to rigorous tests and always sheltered by her family. In this book we learn that her time in testing gave Olive the opportunity to grow some AWESOME hidden talents which are extremely plot-necessary; we also get to see her grow her wings and become independent, not only from her family, but also from her past attachments that she’s clung to like a security blanket. I would venture to say Pearl’s Number is as much a story of Olive’s growth as it is Evie’s, and as a reader I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Last but never least of the foursome is Sol. I love Sol. He epitomizes the strong, silent type, and he is such an asset to the team. IMO Sol is Evie’s equal opposite: both people who were enslaved to the numbers system, who resented their position but were bound by it. Both people who made a choice before it became the new law to step outside the boundaries of their so-called “duty” and defy the system. While Evie was embraced for that, we see a little more nervousness, a little more prejudice against Sol, which I think is a significant gauge for where Eden’s society is really at. Once the group is in the Divided States, Sol becomes even more of an asset with his combat knowledge and ability to just blend into the shadows and observe. I absolutely adore him and I hope he (and Olive) get their own spinoff someday ❤
Additional characters that I loved were Noble and Pearl. With Pearl having POV for some of the book, we get an interesting shake-up of an older voice with a different perspective, and it brings a LOT to the narrative. Most of Pearl’s POV chapters are chock-full of spoilers, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the perspective that Pearl adds took this book up a full notch and introduced some dilemmas I don’t think we would’ve gotten through just Evie and Jeremiah’s POVs. And I think that was a BRILLIANT move on Atazadeh’s part!
We really spend most of the story away from Eden, so worldbuilding is once again a great focus in Pearl’s Number just as it was in the prequel. The majority of Pearl’s Number takes place in the Divided States, and here we see that a world without the numbers system is not without its own faults and perils, and in fact some of the same mentalities of who is better and who is less-than prevail in the Divided States, just as they did in Eden.
There was clearly a lot of thought and effort put into differing factions, how they fit together, and how that would impact the plot. I have a ton of respect for how Atazadeh built this world and how Pearl fit into it as a character. Knowing what we do of her supposed “death” in the Bloom Rebellion and why she was caught up in that, her role in the Divided States – and the outcome of the plot – makes perfect sense. I think this book is a great example of how smart worldbuilding braids beautifully into the overall plot, giving the readers a feeling of total immersion.
While there were times where I didn’t enjoy the plot of Pearl’s Number as much as EN, that’s just personal preference. The pacing is tight, each segment flows smoothly into the next, and the overarching premise – Evalene searching desperately for her mother – is personal enough that all the craziness it entails feels totally sensible and worth it to our heroine. In the latter chapters the plot really picked up for me and by the end of the main arc I was in jaw-dropped awe.
Atazadeh took some risks with this plot. BIG RISKS. At least in the sense that the conclusion is by no means morally cut-and-dry. Reading this book is going to leave you DEEP in thought about choice and right-or-wrong and it introduces so much gray area. I was really impressed by just how much this book left me in thought. The ending sequence was absolutely AMAZING that way and I will say that in many ways, that part far surpasses EN.
I give major props to Atazadeh for this: Evalene’s Number and Pearl’s Number read like the same book. In other words, the prose and style fit FLAWLESSLY together. In no way did this story ever feel to me like it wasn’t a direct sequel to its predecessor. Prose, tone, dialogue, character voices were all on point to the first book. I have no complaints there!
While there were parts of this book that I felt weren’t quite on par with what EN delivered, Pearl’s Number is nevertheless a solid, emotionally-gripping, heartbreaking, pulse-pounding, edge-of-your-seat sequel. I highly recommend it and am looking forward to rereading it soon!
You can pick up a copy of PEARL’S NUMBER HERE!