The Establishment has a recruitment day each year. Five "lucky" people are chosen and they face a series of tests with one person coming out the victor. Each person has two incentive lives hanging in the balance during the tests. If they fail then the incentives are killed. The last one standing gets to join the Imposer task force. For Lucian, recruitment day is the way he can protect his four year old brother. Lucian tries to get caught on purpose during curfew, but runs into an old school mate Digory. Digory is working for the resistance and tries to get Lucian to join the rebellion. As they run from the Imposers, Digory escapes and Lucian is caught. Lucian is taken to see the Prefect, who happens to be his Uncle. Cassius assures Lucian that he and Cole will be fine. Cassius transports Cole and Mrs. Bledsoe, their surrogate mother, to the city so they can watch the ceremony from his private box. When the fifth recruit kills herself, Cassius names Lucian as the fifth recruit. Cassius uses the reason that his own flesh and blood is being corrupted by the resistance and an example will be made. The recruits are isolated from each other on a boat and taken to an island to begin their training. Their days are filled with calisthenics, fighting techniques, map reading, land navigation, compass use, first aid training, and basic combat training. When the five are taken in the middle of the night they are told to put their training to good use. Their mission is to make it to the radio tower in one piece. Everyone makes it to the radio tower to pass phase one of their training. Phase two and phase three are even more grueling. Through out all of this Lucian finds himself falling in love with Digory. When graduation day approaches it is all but a happy day for Lucian and Digory. Everyone sees their families but Lucian. He shares an emotional moment with Digory before the ceremony begins. During the ceremony it is reviled that Mrs. Bledsoe has died leaving Lucian with one incentive, his brother Cole. Digory also has one incentive, his husband. It is decreed that Digory and Lucian incentives will serve as the others incentives during the trials. The trials are where loved ones will be sacrificed and friendships that existed during the earlier phases of training will be no more. Only one can walk away with their life and the lives of their incentives.
I really enjoyed this book. As the story progressed I wanted everyone, both the recruits and their incentives, to survive. Of course their can only be one recruit and their incentives who survive. The author made you care for all the characters, even when they died. I think there might be one or two characters who "died" that will probably pop up in the next book of the series.