See more of my reviews on Birth of a New Witch! My copy was an ARC I received from the publisher via Edelweiss.As much as I dislike Divergent, I respect it a little because it's now successful enough for me to say stuff like "fans of Divergent will love it" or call a book a rip-off of it. Fans looking for something to enjoy while waiting for the final book in Veronica Roth's hit dystopian series? Meet The Ward, which will be your new best friend.It takes The Ward a little while to get to the meat of the story and provide the action-packed story is promises readers, but once it does warm up, the heat is on! Truth be told, it took so long and left me feeling so uninvolved that I nearly quit partway through, but more persistent readers engaged with the story will be just fine. Readers like me? This will be more of an issue. We want good books that are good from start to finish, not a good book we have to trudge through 100-200 pages of meh or bad material to get to the good stuff.The characters ranged from flat (most of Ren's fellow racers, like Terrence and Kent) to unlikable (Ren herself; calling Cleopatra and Mata Hari sluts who died gruesome deaths is a one-way ticket to my bad side even if it's a sign of her internalized misogyny) and not much further beyond that. Even Ren's driving force, her adopted sister Aven, is barely characterized. Ren herself says she wants to get to know Aven because the sickness turned her into a different person, but it would have been nice to get to know even the girl Aven is when she's sick. Female characterization in particular is a sore point of the novel; Aven and Ren are the only women not negatively portrayed in the text.The terse, not-always-correct style the novel is written is gets across Ren's lack of education and personality perfectly. If you emerge from this novel feeling as if you personally know any character, it will be Ren because her first-person narration puts you close to her, if not the story. That doesn't mean there aren't hiccups, though! She talks about her Hessians as if they're people and not shoes--which is more than a little entertaining when she says her Hessians force her to go somewhere.The book could--and perhaps should--have been a standalone. Everything within the novel is resolved as well as it will be in this broken-down society, but an event that feels a little forced provides the single link to the sequel. It's difficult to imagine Frankel developing her world any further than she already has because that one small event seems like it might drive the novel, but who knows? Maybe she can.