Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: Nil Unlocked by Lynne Matson

Title: Nil Unlocked
Series: Nil #2
Author: Lynne Matson
Published: May 12, 2015 by Henry Holt (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: On the island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die. Rives is now the undisputed Leader of Nil City, but keeping the City united is tougher than ever. 

Raiders have grown bolder, supplies are dwindling, and non-human inhabitants have taken a turn toward the deadly. New arrivals cause rifts within the City, putting the Search system at risk, and calling everything Rives knows into question. Desperate for answers, he teams up with the only other person searching for them: Skye, a new arrival with a mysterious past of her own. Soon the duo find themselves locked in a desperate race to save all the residents of Nil—and possibly destroy the island forever. But at what cost? And who will pay the price? 

It's always amazing when a standalone book you loved gets a sequel you didn't know it would have. That was Nil Unlocked for me, an unexpected and absolutely appreciated sequel to a book that I loved. But the thing with sequels is they can be tricky, especially unexpected ones. Do they capture the magic of the first book? Do they continue the story in an intentional and interesting way? I'm happy to say that Nil Unlocked was just as good, if not better than Nil with amazing characters and fantastic plot development.

One of the things that I have always loved about this book is the setting. The island of Nil is a picturesque tropical island and Lynne is able to create a visually stunning place full of beaches, volcanic lava fields, and lush jungles that you can perfectly visualize. It seems like the kind of place that you want to visit on vacation but this island is more than meets the eye. The book walks a fine line between the beauty and terror of the island. It's a place where you have to expect the unexpected. A place where nothing is what you thought and nothing and no one is safe. This makes for a really atmospheric and action-packed kind of read. It had me on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what was going to happen next and where the book would lead us.

And where it led us was attempting to understand the mystery surrounding the island. In the first book I loved how mysterious the island of Nil was and how it was a character unto itself. The island was basically the antagonist of the story. The main characters were trying to figure it out and outsmart it so that could escape and get home. In Nil Unlocked the island stayed a character but my feelings toward it shifted a little bit. This time the island wasn't so antagonistic but it wasn't benevolent either. The island of Nil became much more of an odious type character which I always love. The more we learned about Nil, the more complex she became. Of course as the title informs us, this was all about unlocking the secrets to Nil and we definitely did that in this book. And Nil's secrets are just as complex as she is. It's part science and part faith. The first book always felt like a YA version of the TV show Lost and this really solidified it. I loved learned all the Nil truths and it's history and mythology. It made for such a compelling story.

But Nil wasn't the only complex and interesting character in this book. Nil Unlocked is sort of a companion novel to the first book. In Nil we met Charley and Thad and followed them on their journey to escape Nil but this book we get two new main characters. That's often a hard thing but I have to say that Lynne did a great job making the characters interesting and empathetic. In Nil Unlocked our main characters are Skye and Rives. We met Rives in book one, as Thad's second and future leader of Nil City. I loved seeing Rives lead. H puts others before himself. Even though his days on Nil are numbered (everyone's are though, amiright) he would rather see everyone else get off the island before him. He has this quite confidence and inner strength that make him a great leader. But he's not perfect and makes a lot stupid mistakes because he's not really thinking about how they will affect him. His selflessness is his fatal flaw. Skye however is completely new and completely fantastic. She had this amazing sense of curiosity and sense of adventure that we as the reader have about the island. Whereas Rives is selfless, Skye's fatal flaw is that she's selfish. She doesn't always think about others and isn't really a team player but she still has other people's best interest in mind. She's ready for Nil in a way that no other new arrival has been and her desire to take it all on is empowering and fun to watch. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Skye and Rives and by the end I may have liked them more than Thad and Charley. They're just all such fantastic characters.

Part of what I loved so much about this book is the plot development. For one thing this has always been a really action-packed kind of series. It's about survival and that is a concept that I always love. Here Lynne really brought the suspense and had me on the edge of my seat. As the book drew closer to the end I was so nervous about what was going to happen I had to take a break to collect my thoughts. Plus you guys probably know I'm much more of a fan of second books in a series than I think a lot of people are and Nil Unlocked was a good example as why. The first book in a trilogy always introduces you to the world, the characters, and the conflict. Nil did a fantastic job of doing that. Then the second book we get the mystery and questions are answered. When Nil ended I was satisfied but I wanted to know more. In Nil Unlocked we start to get some answers. Things from the first book come back into play and they started leading us to a new and different conclusion. And yes, it did reach an actual conclusion. No cliffhanger, no unresolved ending, a clear and compelling climax that was interesting and left you wanting more. I really love when second books don't end with a big question mark. But that doesn't mean that I don't desperately want the final book, because I do. I want it, I need it.

Nil Unlocked was a fantastic read full of adventure and mystery. I was on the edge of my seat nervous to see where things were going to lead. The characters were complex and interesting , especially the island itself whose dubiousness makes for an interesting setting, and main characters who are flawed but likeable.

I give Nil Unlocked by Lynne Matson 9.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are a fan of Lost you must read this book. Even if you are not check this book out. It has something for everyone: action and adventure, mystery and intrigue, characters who are complex and likeable, and an interesting setting. Read it and report back!

Have you read Nil Unlocked? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I loved the forst 3 seasons of Lost, so all the GIFs are making me want to re-watch the show and also read the book because it seems that the author had her storyline about NIL a bit more clear than the screenwriters for LOST! ;) Will have to check NIL & NIL Unlocked for sure!
    Great review Cassie!

  2. Okay, I need to check out these books. They sound amazing. Great review, Cassie! I'm sold.