By Madeline Dyer
Prequel/Spin-Off to the Untamed series
If you’re not reading the Untamed series, you’re sorely missing out. It’s perfect YA dystopia, with amazing complex characters and thrilling adventure. And if you are reading the Untamed surprise, great news! Madeline Dyer has released a new standalone novel in the universe: A Dangerous Game, and it’s unputdownable.
LOVE WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE EASY.
All her life, Keelie Lin-Sykes has known what she wants: to protect her brother and sisters by killing as many of the soulless Enhanced Ones as she can. Oh, and to have fun while she’s doing it. After all, hiding in a secret Untamed community, while the group’s Seer warns them of danger, shouldn’t mean that life can only be serious, right?
But, when a face from her past suddenly—and secretly—shows up, Keelie’s catapulted back into the very world she’s been trying to escape from for the last ten years: a world full of guilt, lies, and…love. And the deeper Keelie gets into this world, the bigger the risks become.
Now, Keelie must deceive those she values most in order to protect them, even though her actions will destroy everything she knows and haunt her family forever. But she can’t ignore her feelings–not again. And Keelie will do anything to be with the man she loves.
Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Unlike the main Untamed series – which in itself is rather action packed – A Dangerous Game is more adrenaline-filled than ever. Unlike Untamed, here we follow a new character, Keelie, who’s very different to Seven. She’s dangerously addicted to action and adventure, constantly putting her own life in danger for the thrill of it. She acts without thinking, potentially putting others in harm’s way. She’s selfish and rude, and I love her. There’s just something about well written flawed characters that just hooks you in.
And, unlike Seven, Keelie has got an active love life. There’s more focus on romance in this standalone, and love (or maybe lust) is one of the key drivers of Keelie’s instincts. Once again, unlike Seven who is thoughtful and thinks ahead, Keelie makes decisions based on gut feelings and almost animal instinct. Which isn’t always the best for her – or anyone.
We also get a different view of the villagers at Nbutai before the events of Untamed, when they weren’t yet on the run. Though under constant threat from the Enhanced, they lead lives, they work together, they survive, maybe even thrive. This makes the beginning of Untamed suddenly so much more poignant because you begin to love characters you know won’t make it out alive.
A Dangerous Game also deals with mental health, as Keelie’s mental wellbeing isn’t exactly stable, and other characters fall on the autism spectrum, which is a breath of fresh air in the stacks of YA dystopian books.
If you loved Untamed, then you need this companion novel. If you haven’t yet read the Untamed series, then you need to. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled thrill ride from start to finish, where the only time you put down the book is to catch your breath, then you’ve come to the right place. Addicting, Thrilling, Amazing.
Interview with MADELINE DYER, author of the UNTAMED series
R: While set in the same world as Untamed, your new book has a different protagonist, and it’s set before the start of Untamed. What prompted you to want to write a book set before your series begins?
MD: So, back in 2013 when I was writing Untamed, book one of my series, I knew pretty much straight away that I really wanted to write Keelie’s story too—I just completely fell in love with her, and the more I worked on other books in the series, the more I found other characters referring to things she’d done. She was certainly an influential force on these characters! This really fueled my desire to explore Keelie more and see how she relates to the other characters in the Untamed world, and so I knew I’d have to write a book from her point of view. And, thus, A Dangerous Game was born!
Due to events that happen at the start of Untamed (and how the focus of the series is on Seven and her struggle to win the war), I knew that Keelie’s story would have to be set before the start of Untamed in order to give her the lime-light that she deserves—and where nothing huge would be going on at the same time that would detract from her story, because it’s very much about Keelie’s struggle with mental health, identity, and her relationships with others. I really wanted the emphasis to be on Keelie, so that Seven (the narrator of the series) can just be a minor character in the background as the juicy part of her story hasn’t begun yet. And so, A Dangerous Game, became a sort of prequel to the series. But it’s also very much a standalone book in its own right. You don’t need to read the series first.
It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I actually had time to really delve into Keelie’s story, and I was surprised at just how organically her story flowed—and how much it worked as a companion to the series. Writing a story set before my series has also been a lot of fun, as we get to see more of the daily life of the Nbutai villagers before they all go on the run from the Enhanced Ones.
R: In reading the book, we notice it’s very different to Untamed. What was the hardest challenge in writing this book, compared to the other novels in the Untamed series?
MD: The hardest challenge in writing A Dangerous Game was making sure that there were no continuity errors in it or anything that jars with the first book of the series (particularly as there is a slight overlap in the timelines of the two books, though Seven and Keelie are in different places, dealing with different things, completely oblivious of each other). This also meant that I had to make sure that the end of A Dangerous Game didn’t repeat any information that the start of Untamed gives, as I don’t want to bore readers who’ve read both, and so I had to think of a way where the ending of Keelie’s story actually changes how the readers view and understand the start of Seven’s.
R: It’s so intriguing following the thoughts of a different character, who’s very different to Seven in many ways. Did you find that writing Keelie’s point of view was harder or easier than writing Seven’s? In what ways were they different?
MD: Keelie was actually a lot easier to write than Seven! Keelie’s impulsive, an adrenaline junkie, and confident (often dangerously over-confident), whereas Seven is quieter, very observant, and a lot more thoughtful. Seven is a planner, Keelie isn’t.
So, writing Keelie was definitely a breath of fresh air, as she does a lot of things that Seven would never have dreamed of doing in Untamed. But it was also really interesting seeing how these two characters view the world they live in so differently. Keelie often sees the war between the Untamed and Enhanced as almost game-like and something she can use to prove how strong she is, whereas Seven sees the horrors of it all for what it actually is and is determined to make sure her actions bring about an end for the war. Seeing Keelie and Seven interact with each other in A Dangerous Game was fun too—particularly as Seven hasn’t developed her Seer powers at this stage and is unaware of just how important she’ll be in the war, and so Keelie almost takes on the role of defender to the young woman who’ll later be the savior of their people.
R: The process of writing a book is never straightforward, is it! Did you have to make massive changes to your book, or did you know what the story was going to be since the very beginning?
MD: I knew the rough shape the story would take right from when I started writing it, but, wow, did it change a lot! The massive changes included ‘unkilling’ a character, introducing another sibling for Keelie (which completely changed the direction of the plot at several points), and increasing the level of romance A LOT.
R: One a more personal level, what would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
MD: Before I start a writing session, I generally make a cup of tea. Then, I invariably lose my cup of tea and make another one. At the end of my writing session, I either find the lost cup of tea or realize I’ve completely forgotten to drink the replacement one.
R: What’s your writing ritual, and what do you like to do when you’re not writing?
MD: I love writing outside, so I do that as often as I can. In general, I write first thing in the morning and keep going until lunchtime. Afternoons are for catching up on admin or editing—unless I’m at the beach, because then I’ll write at the beach.
When I’m not writing, I can be found out on our farm, with my herd of Shetland ponies, reading, or trying out new coffee shops.