by Eve Kenin
(Shomi, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-505-52761-5
Eve Kenin is the alter-ego of Eve Silver. Unlike other readers, I don't find the latter's gothic romances particularly memorable. Hidden, a gritty, fast-paced futuristic romance with a hard-headed heroine and a hero to die for, is another matter. Kenin/Silver may have found her true calling.

Tatiana has spent years imprisoned in an underground laboratory where she was used as a guinea pig for scientific experiments. She has since escaped, but carries the marks of human engineering in her ability to read people's minds through touch, to self-heal from the worst wounds and to use her body like a knife. Other scars from this experience, like her dislike for human contact and touch, are less visible. She roams the icy wastes of post-apocalyptic landscapes looking for the man who exploited her unique genetic make-up to create a deadly virus. She plans to kill him and save what remains of mankind from total disaster.

In the course of her search, Tatiana runs into Tristan, who has his own inner and outer demons to pursue. When he realizes Tatiana has been exposed to contaminated blood, he is determined to lure her into his underground hiding place and hold her there until she dies. He cannot afford to let the contagion spread above ground.

Naturally wary, Tristan and Tatiana are slow to catch on to the other's secrets and even slower to reveal their own. This might make it hard for them to give into their mutual attraction, but it certainly racks up the sexual tension. Suspense is not neglected, as they have to fight on several fronts.

I liked both Tristan and Tatiana, whose reactions and attitudes make total sense. Despite their own problems and desires, they always have their eyes on what it is truly important. After coming across so many spoilt, self-centered and whiny characters, I found their stance both very mature and extremely admirable.

The novel really excels in its world-building. Tatiana and Tristan occupy a universe where our political and topographical geographies have become meaningless. The new allegiances, medical discoveries and even hominoid-like races that have prevailed since catastrophe struck are quite fascinating. They are also utterly realistic. With a few well-placed words, Kenin conveys the desolation of life in a subzero climate (think Mad Max set in the artic zone).

Tristan and Tatiana could have done with a better villain. Theirs is too caricatural. I also found one or two plot details a little confusing and the details about their fights and escapes routes a tad overwhelming. None of this will deter me from going back from more, starting with Driven the first book in this promising new series.  

--Mary Benn

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