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RDR - Part 2

He walked toward the station building, which was much smaller than the one in Blackwater. There was a man on a bench reading a newspaper outside the building. The Cowboy walked through the station, passing by others sitting on seats inside.

When he came out the other doorway, he could see straight down the main street of the town. Armadillo was certainly very different from Blackwater.

While the buildings in Blackwater were usually built with brick or concrete, the buildings in Armadillo were mostly built with lumber. It was dirtier, more run down, and more wild. Whores, drunks and outlaws thrived there, despite the lazy law enforcement presence in the town.

There were stores and other establishments in the town, most notably the saloon, where the Cowboy was specifically instructed to go to meet with an individual contact.

As the Cowboy walked out of the train station, he could hear a piano being played in the saloon.

He walked towards the saloon, and witnessed a drunken man stumbling out. He waddled towards the edge of the porch and fell down the steps, and then passed out. The Cowboy gave a pitiful look, and then proceeded up the three steps to the porch of the saloon.

He pushed aside the sliding hinge doors that led in, and found exactly what he had expected; drunks, whores, and criminals. He looked around, observing his surroundings. He saw many drunks doing what they do best, and some folks looking for confrontation with one another. Then, he heard an obnoxious voice from one of the corners of the saloon.

“Marston? Mr. Marston, over here!” he heard the voice call out. The Cowboy approached the direction that he heard the man calling his name. He saw that it was a grimy looking man with far under-maintained facial hair and several teeth missing. He was wearing a light brown coat and a similarly colored cowboy hat. He was spending some time on a couch getting to know a prostitute with the help of a bottle of some kind of liquor.

Once the Cowboy arrived, the grimy man pushed the prostitute aside, stood up and said, “You must be John Marston.”

“Sometimes,” the Cowboy responded. John Marston was indeed his name.

The grimy man buckled his pants and buttoned his fly. He glanced at the clearly agitated prostitute, and then looked back at Marston.

The grimy man put his hands on his sides and said, “I’m Jake. Your friends from Blackwater hired me to guide ya’.”

“They ain’t my friends,” Marston started, “but pleased to meet you, Jake.”

“Well, I got the horses saddled up and ready out front,” Jake said. He started walking toward the front doorway of the saloon, and Marston followed. The piano player continued to play as they walked out, and an argument went wrong at the bar as a drunken man busted a glass bottle on another man’s face and a fight broke out. The usual deal.

Jake led Marston to the horses, hitched just outside the saloon.

“You won’t find sturdier horses in all of New Austin,” Jake said. He then climbed on one of the horses, and Marston mounted the other, and they started making their way out of town.

“Take it slow on your way out of town,” Jake said. “No need to kick up a lot of dust.”

The train was just leaving the station as Jake led Marston in that direction. Apparently, their route was over the train tracks. The horses neighed as the train loudly began moving across the tracks in front of them. Several moments later, the path was clear and they moved across the tracks.

It was about dusk, and the sun was just beginning to set. The clouds in the sky, combined with the pink-orange hue of the sky made for a gratifying view.

They made their way into the partial desert wilderness of Cholla Springs.

“So, it’s Fort Mercer that you wanna visit?” Jake asked as they rode along the dirt path.

“That’s right,” Marston said.

“I ain’t taken nobody up to the fort in a long time,” Jake said. “Strange place for a decent fella to wanna visit, if ya’ don’t mind me sayin’.”

“Who said I was a decent fella?” Marston asked.

Jake did not speak for a few moments. Their two horses were trotting side by side, in synch with each other.

“The fort’s been abandoned for years now,” Jake said. “Folks say it was built during the Mexican War. All kinds of soldiers around back then.”

“Why’d they leave?” Marston asked.

“Well, I ain’t entirely sure,” Jake said. “I heard that they had to go up North to fight Indians. Or maybe they got tired of being soldiers and went lookin’ for gold, you know how things is. So what are you hoping to do up at the fort?”

“I’m looking for an old friend,” Marston said.

“Well like I says, you ain’t gonna find many folk ’round in those parts these days,” Jake said. “And those that you do find are ‘bout as sociable as an ulcerated back tooth. I mean, I ain’t one to judge a man on the company he keeps, but--”

“Well, he ain‘t been friends in a long time,” Marston said.

The smoke bellowing from the train could be seen a little ways off in the distance now. Marston thought how it was quite peaceful out where they were, despite the unwelcoming wilderness. There was dry vegetation covering the landscape, and cactus was a common sight.

There was a ridge in the near distance with some trees on the top. He wondered if that was the hill that Fort Mercer was upon.

“Are you plannin’ on spending any time in Armadillo, Mr. Marston?” Jake asked.

“I doubt it,” Marston said. “I ain’t planning on staying very long.”

“Well, if your fixin’ for some ‘female company,’ you can do a lot worse than Armadillo. Fine as cream gravy they are!” Jake said, and then laughed briefly.

Jake continued, “Not like the ladies in Thieves’ Landing. Dang, those girls ain’t even fit for a drinkin’ man to hole up with.”

“I’m a married man, I’m afraid,” Marston said.

“Ain’t we all?” Jake said, and then laughed.

There was another few minutes of silence as neither of them spoke. Marston used this time to reflect on what he was about to have to do, once at Fort Mercer. He didn’t know how he was going to make it work, he just knew that it had to.

If it didn’t, he would lose everything.

“Yeah, so, it was the Marshal of Armadillo who hired me,” Jake said. “Leigh Johnson, do you know him?”

“I think I heard his name,” Marston said.

“Says he got a telegram from some Blackwater big bugs askin’ for a guide. I guess it’s none of my business,” Jake said.

“That’s right,” Marston responded.

Jake gave Marston a look of question. “You ain’t very talkative, are ya’?” Jake asked.

“No,” Marston said straightforwardly.

“I’m just chewin’ the dog, mister,” Jake said. “It’s how I am. I don’t mean nothin’ by it.”

“Trust me, there’s some things that you’re better off not knowin‘,” Marston said.

They started making their way along a dirt path that went up the ridge that overlooked the rest of the county. Once they got atop, they would be in the county of Rio Bravo.

Their horses trotted up the path until they were back on horizontal ground. There was a bit more tree coverage up on the ridge than down below, and the entire county of Cholla Springs was easily visible from the plateau.

The plateau of the ridge was made up of many smaller hills and slopes.

After trotting along the path some more, Jake and Marston came across a pack of Coyotes eating a dead deer.

“I tell you, Mr. Marston, those Coyotes eat better than I do,” Jake said. “It’s not far now. You’ll see the fort when we get to the top of this next hill.”

Almost there, Marston thought.

They ascended the small hill, though it felt like it took a hundred years. Once over it, the fort was right there in front of them, clear as day, a short distance away. It was a very faded light brown color, built out of stone, and very rundown. It didn’t seem like anyone could find refuge there now.

“Listen mister,” Jake started, “this here is what’s left of Fort Mercer. Some gang rode in and took the place over.”

“So I understand,” Marston said.

“This is where we part ways, friend. You go on and have yourself a good time,” Jake said, and he then laughed with no restraint. He turned his horse in the other direction, and trotted away.

Marston now had to do the job he had been sent here to do. But he knew it was more than just a job. It was tying up the loose threads of his dark past. One that he would rather have avoided. But alas, he had no real choice.

He approached the path that led towards the front gate of the fort. Once there, he dismounted the horse, and stood on the ground. He then slowly started to approach the front gate of the fort. On the sides of the path were things such as broken down wagons and old barrels and crates. There was a small group of crows in the grass nearby.

It felt like it took forever to get to the gate. His mind was racing. He couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if he wasn’t prepared.

He finally got in front of the massive hardwood gate of the fort. The fort walls rose about eight meters into the air, and there was a torch on either side of the large entrance gate.

Marston looked up at the top of the wall and shouted, “Bill! Bill, I’ve come for ya’!”

No response.

Marston shouted again, “Bill Williamson! Come out here right now!”

After a couple of moments, a voice spoke out from the top of the fort wall.

“Go away now, John,” Bill Williamson said. “Don’t make me kill you.”

“Nobody needs to kill anyone, Bill,” Marston said.

A few seconds later, Bill came out from behind a pillar atop the fort wall, with a repeater in his grasp. He was of average height, with his brown hair grown out on his head and his lower face. His beard and mustache were dotted with spots of dried vomit. He wore a tan coat and brown cowboy hat, and had a red bandana tied around his neck.

“You must think I was born yesterday. You always did think I was an idiot,” Bill said.

“Now, that ain’t fair, Bill,” Marston said. “You were as my brother. I’ve come to try to save you.”

Bill laughed after Marston spoke. Then, two others with repeaters in their grasp appeared on either side of Bill, all aiming in Marston‘s general direction.

“Do I look like I need saving?” Bill asked.

“Bill, please. They want to kill us all. I can help you,” Marston said.

“Well, you never tried to save me before. You only seemed to save yourself,” Bill said.

“Bill, I implore you. Think about this,” Marston said.

Bill laughed at the thought of what Marston had said. “You implore me? You implore me? You always were one for fancy words. Well, things are different now, John. Now, I’M in charge! No more of Dutch, and no more of you.” Bill chuckled again.

Bill continued, “Implores. I, I implores you, to go back, and tell them to send someone just a little more impressive next time.”

Marston was greatly discouraged now.

“Well…” Marston said, and then he quickly reached for his revolver, pulled it out of it’s holster, and went to aim it at Bill.

But one of Bill’s henchmen was quicker, and fired a bullet into Marston’s right side. He fell down with a yell, and then sprawled out his arms. Blood now covered a portion of his shirt and jacket.

Bill laughed maniacally, and then said, “Poor John.” He then walked away, back into his dwellings within the fort. He left Marston to his fate.

But Marston was still conscious, at least, for now. He tried to turn over, onto his stomach. Attempting to do so caused him significant pain, but he felt like he needed to get closer to the main road.

He started to crawl, or pull himself along the ground. He left a trail of blood in his path, evidence of his survival this long.

Slowly and painfully he pulled himself along, trying to stay conscious. He finally got to the end of the path, and was at the road. But he could go no farther. His vision faded to black.

__________________

In the twilight of evening, a pair of ranchers ride their horse-drawn wagon on a dirt road in Rio Bravo county. One of them, a woman in her early thirties with beige hair, and the other, a man with black hair wearing a white shirt with brown suspenders with pants and boots.

They traveled this lonely dirt road not expecting to find anything of note. What they find, is an unconscious man with a bullet wound being preyed upon by vultures. Luckily for this unconscious man, the vultures have not yet laid a talon on him.

The pair of ranchers stop their wagon in the middle of the dirt road. They hop out of the front seat, and the vultures fly away. The woman inspects the unconscious man in the road while the male rancher keeps watch while grasping a repeater in his hands.

Then, he places the repeater on the ground and they each grab one end of the unconscious man. They load him into the back of the wagon, and then get back in the front seat.

They cue for the horses to get moving, and they do. Thus, they take off into the twilight, toting the wounded gunslinger.

RDR - Part 1

It was a morning like any other in the quiet town of Blackwater. A cloudless sky, still a rich mixture of pink and orange from the sunrise, just beginning to turn blue. The horizon was thinly fogged and the air humid by the moist lake-side atmosphere.

The town had seen a night of silence and inactivity, save for stray cats and the cool breeze of the dark hours. But now, like any other morning, the streets were coming to life with the denizens of the town. Doctors, tailors, store owners, dock workers, bar tenders and every other working man and woman of Blackwater was on their way to their places of business.

A chapel with a cemetery is located atop a hill on the North-western outskirts overlooking the town. At the North side of Blackwater is a bank, the town hall and the police department. Down the street leading South, one can find such establishments like hotels, a doctor’s office, general stores, saloons, and theatres. To the East, a train station sits at the edge of town.

Blackwater is a dock town, on the edge of the massive Flat Iron Lake. Inland, it is surrounded on the other three sides by the Great Plains, a vast prairie region that stretches as far as the eye can see.

The quiet life in this small town is something that the locals had grown accustomed to, it’s lawless past all but a memory. An outsider would have no way of knowing that this little town of Blackwater was, not so long ago, the gateway to the Wild West. But alas, the world is changing. Blackwater is now the gateway to the civilized East. Civilization, at any price.

Like most other mornings, a steamboat was arriving in the town docks to deliver travelers who were bound for the frontier lands of the Great Plains. The double-decker steamboat glides as it’s large cylinder shaped rudder churns through the murky waters of Flat Iron Lake.

However, unlike most other mornings, this steamboat was carrying some unusual passengers among the regular travelers.

The steamboat made it’s way into the dock, with all it’s passengers gathering near the exit on the lower-deck. It settled next to a jetty, and the harbormaster allowed the passengers out of the steamboat.

All the arrivals began to file out onto the jetty, anxious to stand on stable ground again. Among them were businessmen wearing suits and toting suitcases, ladies wearing dresses and corsets, and humble workers wearing dingy, worn out clothes.

A crane was toting a brand new automobile from it’s original location upon a platform on the steamboat, to a platform on the dock. The crane worker slowly let down the automobile down onto the dock platform.

Among the crowd disembarking from the steamboat were two suited federal agents escorting a cowboy in dingy clothes.

The pair of federal agents were both wearing bureau suits and badges, with bowler hats on their heads and Colt 1911 handguns in holsters at their sides. One of them was tall and slim, with a sleek face and dark hair and little facial hair. The other was older, with a short and stocky body, with light brown hair and a mustache.

The man they were escorting was an ex-criminal and cowboy who was in his late thirties and of above-average height, with brown hair that went slightly passed his ears, and with stubble across his lower jaw, chin, and upper lip, and two long scars across his right cheek. He was wearing a long-sleeved beige shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a black denim jacket with the sleeves cut off to the shoulders, black gloves, a satchel that laid on his left side, and pin-striped pants that were worn over his boots. He wore a cowboy hat with a small white feather in it‘s strap, and he had an old cattleman revolver in a holster at his right side.

The trio moved with the crowd down the pier until they reached the street, where the cluster of people started to dissipate as they went on with their business.

The two federal agents and the Cowboy walked down a sidewalk on Main street, and they passed by a young paperboy handing out that days’ newspaper.

“Extra, extra, health benefits of smoking!” the paperboy said loudly. “Extra extra, read all about--” the paperboy was interrupted as the tall federal agent deliberately shoved into him. “Hey! Watch it, mister!” the paperboy said as the agents walked away.

The paperboy continued, “Extra, extra! Bill Williamson’s gang terrorizes New Austin! Extra, extra…”

The Cowboy had glanced at the newspapers as he had walked by, and noted that the date was May 15th, 1911.

The federal agents walked just behind the cowboy they escorted, on either side of him. They marched on the sidewalks along the sides of the brick buildings, passing by street lamps and pedestrians, while the occasional horseman would gallop by on the street.

They walked through town until they reached the other side, where they arrived at their destination; the Blackwater Train Station.

People were already clamoring onto the train, many of which had been on the steamboat coming into town. The conductor announced that the train was about to head off.

Almost all of the passengers were on the train, except for the Cowboy who was about to be the last one on. He walked up the steps onto the train car, while the federal agents stayed behind.

The Cowboy looked back at the two men in bureau suits, and they looked back at him in return. The tall one scratched his cheek, and the short one looked at the Cowboy and nodded in the direction of the passenger seats. They were not getting on the train, as they had to remain in Blackwater. They trusted that the cowboy would make it to his destination successfully. They ensured earlier that he knew that he had no real choice.

The cowboy walked into the passenger train car and walked down the center aisle, trying to find an empty seat. He found one in the right seat row, and slowly sat down next to the window, and rested his arm on the window frame.

He looked out the window and saw that the federal agents were still standing there. The Cowboy knew that they would not leave until the train had left the station.

Then, the train engine started up and whistled, and the bell dinged three times in a row. The train cars started to jerk forward as they began to move along the tracks. There was a brief screech from the wheels, and then the train cars stopped jerking. They had straightened out.

Several moments later, the train had departed from Blackwater Station, and was now on it’s way to it’s destination.

Some of the passengers were chatting to one another, and one even appeared to be ill with a cough and had a handkerchief in hand.

Sitting in the seat behind the Cowboy were two older ladies who had been on the steamboat as well, and he knew their names, Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Ditkiss. The former was wearing a blue formal outfit with a white shirt underneath, with white earrings and a short top hat with feathers sticking out of one side of it. The latter was wearing a black formal outfit with a short, black top hat that had a checker-pattern ribbon tied around it that hung behind her head.

Several minutes after departing from the station, the two ladies began conversing with each other.

“Well, I for one am grateful Mrs. Bush, that they are finally bringing civilization to this savage land,” Mrs. Ditkiss said.

“I could not agree with you more, my dear,” Mrs. Bush responded. “My daddy settled this land, and I know he’ll be looking down on us, pleased at how we helped the natives.”

Mrs. Ditkiss nodded. “Yes, they’ve lost their hand, but they’ve gained access to Heaven. They lived like animals. But they’re happier now, aren’t they?”

The Cowboy kept looking out the window as he overheard the conversation. He looked out at the horizon, passed the vast, open and endless plains that dominate the landscape. In the distance, he could see a heard of buffalo.

Sitting in the seat in front of the Cowboy was a Preacher, and a young woman in a pink buttoned shirt with long sleeves, a black vest, a white dress, and a white hat.

The Preacher and the young lady had been having a conversation as well, and the Cowboy heard that the young lady’s name was Jenny.

“But Father,” Jenny started, “do you mean that unless an innocent receives communion, they’re destined to go to Hell? That hardly seems fair.”

The Preacher put a hand on Jenny’s shoulder. “What I mean to say, Jenny, is that there is a great deal of difference between an innocent and a savage.”

“I never thought of it that way,” Jenny said.

The conversations ceased for awhile and the train car got quieter. They had been on the tracks for a few hours now, and the tree coverage was getting more prominent. They passed near a railroad station, and then grew closer to a bridge that went over the upper-San Luis river.

It was about 12 P.M. noon when the train crossed over the river. Once across, they had crossed over the border into the state of New Austin. They were now in the very last territory that was still, truly, the Wild West.

In front of the Cowboy, Jenny and the Preacher began to converse again. He had missed the first half of their discussion, but heard the rest.

“Not only do people now have motorcars, Father, but I heard that pretty soon we’ll be able to fly,” Jenny said.

“No, only angels can fly, Jenny,” the Preacher said.

“No, no, apparently people can fly,” Jenny started. “Didn’t you hear? Out in Kansas, a man even got a car to fly.”

The Preacher chuckled softly, then said, “I hardly think so, Jenny.”

The train traveled through the Eastern-most county of New Austin, called Hennigan’s Stead. It was a landscape defined by vast, lightly wooded prairies. The mountains were easily visible in the North, some of which were snow-capped. They were a distance away, and yet they still held dominion over the flatlands of New Austin.

The train moved towards the extreme Northern edge of the state, near the mountains. The train tracks led into a tunnel through the mountain that came out the other side. The train entered into the tunnel, and descended into darkness.

It took awhile, but the train exited out the other side of the tunnel. It was now 4 P.M., and they were in the county of Cholla Springs in central New Austin. The landscape here was defined by a barren expanse of partial desert, with dry vegetation dotting the landscape.

The Cowboy heard Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Ditkiss conversing again after a long silence.

“Apparently, Mr. Johns wants to run for Governor,” Mrs. Bush started, “which is why he’s so concerned with cleaning up the state.”

“Nate Johns?” Mrs. Ditkiss asked.

“Yes,” Mrs. Bush answered.

“His family is nothing but hillbilly trash that came here after the war,” Mrs. Ditkiss said. “I don’t want to be judgmental, but this state should not be ruled by such a disgusting family. A family without class.”

“Apparently the Johns family has made a lot of money, and he has a lot of friends in politics,” Mrs. Bush said.

“Mrs. Bush, money isn’t everything,” Mrs. Ditkiss said. “There are many things that money cannot buy.”

“It seems that money can buy voters, though,” Mrs. Bush said.

The Cowboy did not give much thought to what they were saying. He had more important things to dwell on at the moment.

In front of him, Jenny and the Preacher were in the middle of another discussion.

“What you must remember, my dear, is that we have been brought here to spread the word,” the Preacher said. “And the word and civilization, they are the same thing. They are gifts. It is the opportunity we have -- the chance to live among people who are decent and who do not kill each other, and who let you worship in peace.”

“It’s so confusing, Father,” Jenny started. “Sometimes I find it impossible to make the distinction between a loving act and a hateful one. I mean, they often seem to be the same thing.”

The Cowboy reflected on this statement that Jenny had made. He couldn’t think of much else other than how much he understood all too well how that felt.

The Preacher put his hands on his lap and nodded. “Yes, Jenny, it is confusing, but you only have to ask me if you need help.”

“Indeed,” Jenny said.

The train continued to travel through the desolate landscape of Cholla Springs, drawing ever closer to it’s destination. In the near distance, that destination was visible. The lumber and brick buildings of the town of Armadillo were visible, and the train was fast approaching the Armadillo Train Station.

A few minutes later, the train came to a screeching halt at the train station. The train cars jerked a bit, as they had earlier, and then stopped.

“Well, here we are Mrs. Bush. Armadillo,” Mrs. Ditkiss said.

People started getting up out of their seats and filing towards the exit of the train car. The Cowboy was waiting for everyone else to get off before he did, and he watched the people walk down the aisle.

Then, he locked eyes for a moment with a beige haired, freckled woman wearing a brown and white ranching skirt. She kept moving toward the exit, and their gaze was broken.

Most everyone who was getting off at this station was already off the train, so the Cowboy stood up and walked steadily towards the exit. He emerged from within the passenger car, and then walked down the two steps. He now stood at Armadillo Station, after a ten hour train ride.

Review - The Hunger Games (Novel)

Written by Suzanne Collins and published in 2008, The Hunger Games is an Action-Adventure-Dystopian-Science Fiction novel set in post-apocalyptic North America, and follows the story of a teenage girl named Katniss Everdeen, as she fights to survive the annual Hunger Games, where two-dozen contestants fight to the death...and only one can survive.

In the first act, we see that 16 year-old Katniss Everdeen has had a tough life growing up very poor, on the brink of starvation most of her life, in a region called The Seam. Post-apocalyptic North America has been reconstructed as the country of Panem, split into 13 districts and the Capitol. Katniss lives -- or rather, scrapes by -- in the coal industry-driven District 12, where life is hard and the people starve, relying on each other for survival most times.

Katniss knows her way with archery, and uses this talent for hunting with her lifelong friend Gale in the forests of District 12. Of course, hunting is illegal, but it is a risk that she is willing to take to keep her mother and sister from starving since her father died in an accident many years earlier. Katniss alone has kept her family afloat since then. The progression of the characters is smooth, and the connection between Katniss and her younger sister Prim is well established, even in the short amount of time the book spends focusing on the subject.

Times get particularly uncertain near the annual Hunger Games, which has a long history. A long time ago, the districts of Panem rebelled against the Capitol, and were horribly defeated, with District 13 being completely eradicated. Now, as punishment for the rebellion, once a year each district must randomly select one girl and one boy (known as Tributes once selected) to participate in the dreaded Hunger Games. Twenty-four Tributes in total, they are trapped in a massive arena and must fight to the death until only one remains, and the victor will be rewarded with lifelong fame and fortune.

This year, Katniss is unfortunate enough to get randomly selected as District 12's female Tribute, and is transported to the Capitol along with the districts' male Tribute, Peeta. The history between the two is sparse, and yet the chemistry between them is strong from the start. That goes for all of the characters, really; this is a world that feels real, and it is brought to such life by how well the characters interact with one another.

After arriving at the Capitol, it's not long before training begins. Katniss and Peeta are mentored by previous Hunger Games victor Haymitch, who may not seem like much at first, but is easily one of the best characters in the novel. His creative tactics and commanding demeanor push all original expectations of him to the side

The novel keeps the narrative moving at a brisk pace, never lingering on one subject for too long or describing in too much detail. It keeps the writing from getting too bogged down and there is almost no fluff to be found, and this is perhaps one of the greatest successes of the novel.

By the second act, the Hunger Games have started and the twenty-four Tributes must simply survive, and be the last one left standing. The arena is huge, enough so that the Games can last weeks at a time due to the Tributes being able to put a lot of ground between each other. Often times, the Tributes spend their time waiting for the perfect time to strike against their foes. Some however, make alliances with each other, no matter how temporary those alliances may be. Katniss uses her many years of surviving in District 12 to her advantage in the arena, as her survival experience far exceeds that of the average Tribute. None can hunt or forage like her, and most importantly, no one is as good with a bow as her.

Obviously, other Tributes are not the only challenge. Merely keeping from starving is an ever-present priority, and Katniss is clearly fit for the task. Interactions with other Tributes are not too common, but they always remain well connected with the story. Each one feels unique, with their own tactics and reputations within the arena and are viewed by others accordingly. Katniss finds a close partnership with a 12 year-old girl named Rue, who reminds the former of her younger sister Prim at every turn. The relationship between Katniss and Rue is very well written, and progresses just as naturally as it feels like it should.

However, no other relationship in the story feels as natural as the one that grows between Katniss and Peeta in the novels' third act. Through complicated circumstances, the two find each other and an excellently written tale of love begins to form in the middle of an otherwise gritty endeavor. It had been slowly building up since the beginning, but it finally comes together very organically, and it does not seem forced. And yet, that is what The Hunger Games does best, cover to cover. It keeps the character progression steady, and most importantly, natural. It is a believable story, to say the least.

It is a real page turner, keeping the reader thoroughly immersed all the way to its enticing conclusion. There are indeed cliffhangers aplenty, and don't be surprised if you find yourself reading for many hours straight just to see what happens next in this perfectly paced and gripping novel.