"Ways of the Doomed" by Moira McPartlin is a darkly compelling book for young adults set in a dystopian future Scotland: or perhaps that should be "Base Dalriada", part of Esperaneo, one of the major power blocks into which the world has divided itself. The year is 2089. Sorlie, or Somhairle, is one of the Privileged class, who lives with his parents on the military base on which they serve. The Privileged live lives of relative ease and luxury, as far as the Earth's depleted resources will permit, and are served by the much larger native Celtic underclass, virtual slaves from whom the Privileged are separated by upbringing, opportunity, and genetic background.
Sorlie's world is torn apart by the death of his mother, and soon afterwards his father, and he finds himself fleeing the home he has known for so long in the company of his native, Ishbel. They head north-west to the ferry port of Ulapul, before Sorlie is flown to Black Rock, the island penal colony run by his cold, distant - and notorious - uncle. Sorlie finds himself with little more liberty than anyone else incarcerated on Black Rock, but gradually he begin to make sense of what has happened to him. In the process he uncovers unsettling truths about what is being done to the prisoners on Black Rock, and about his own family background. What he discovers leads him to have to ask difficult questions about the very basis of the society in which he has lived all his life.
This is a story that quickly grips you as a reader, and then keeps you turning the page right through to a dramatic conclusion that is nicely unpredictable. The pace is urgent, and the characters and setting are very believable. We spent some time trying to work out whether "Black Rock" was based on a real island or was fictitious, before deciding that it didn't really matter to our enjoyment of the book. "Ways of the Doomed" is the first book in what will become "The Sun Song Trilogy". It is nicely satisfying in its own right, though clearly sets up and whets the appetite for what is to follow.