Book Review: Broken Branches by Ben Ellis

Broken Branches 1

Synopsis: All men are sterile. Fertility drugs are given only to couples whose genetic matches are approved. Those without a family history to prove their genetic heritage are outcast from society. 

Grace is a broken branch. As an orphan, she has no link to The National Family Tree, so she and her husband, Tom, are ecstatic when they’re approved to have a baby. But that was the easy part. Grace’s twin brother inadvertently gets a girl pregnant after a one-night stand, and his girlfriend isn’t happy because it should’ve been her. Both sets of parents soon become the target of a violent terrorist group that advocates genetic purity. To make matters worse, there’s something strange about the unborn children that’s attracting government attention.

Author: Ben Ellis

Title: Broken Branches

Publisher: Ben Ellis

Date: 2018

Broken Branches 2

Broken Branches left me with mixed feelings. I couldn’t quite figure out how I felt about the book but at the same time, I also wanted to know how it was going to end. I suppose something in it hooked me.

I liked the premise: children are only granted to approved couples. Due to all men being sterile, however, whether they were thoroughbred (able to identify their family) or not, meant that everyone had to go through the approval process. It meant I didn’t understand what the advantage of being thoroughbred was, apart from a whole load of snobbery attached to the name.

Tom is a thoroughbred. Grace, his wife, is not. But their application was still granted approval. So why did it make any difference what their family history was? Charlie, a broken branch like Grace, still gets a thoroughbred pregnant through taking fertility drugs. There was no evidence in the book about what the true differences between a broken branch and a thoroughbred were, apart from people’s attitudes.

Walking shoeless with one foot on the beach and the other dipping into the sea was to walk in two worlds; one built on sand, the other gently pulling you away.

I struggled to connect to the characters. I think this was partly due to the shifting narration. Grace was always torn between whether she should have this child or not. Charlie was likeable, but had an arrogance to him that made it hard to warm to him. You never get to know Amy or Tom enough to develop true feelings on them.

The second part of the book also introduces another narrator, Head. He has an agenda of his own and will do anything to accomplish that. Due to the lack of names, however, for both him and his colleagues, it makes it impossible to connect to his character; you don’t know who he is, meaning you can’t empathise with his actions.

Scattered throughout the book is an interruption from another narrator. He is distanced from the story and apparently talking to the author. I have no idea what his sections were about, they didn’t add anything to the story and there was too much repetition in trying to make the reader “believe” he had a machine that told the future. I personally found it didn’t add anything to the plot whatsoever, other than to confuse me.

Broken Branches 3

While I have no problem with swearing in a book, it only works if it is natural and done in the right context. The fact that I noticed how many characters were swearing frequently in this one shows it wasn’t natural dialogue – what is the point of swearing if it is just to make an impact? All it does is break the natural flow of speech.

The book got stronger in the second half as the characters came together and worked as a team. The tension built with the threat of an enemy and answers being revealed rather than it just being about who got who pregnant. There’s potential here, but I felt it needed to go deeper, with more time spent developing the characters and the world.

Still, I did keep reading.

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