The List

Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver in this gripping story about the power of words and the dangers of censorship.

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world. 

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

It was like the City of Ember, Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver were thrown into a pot and mixed to create this book. The dystopian genre was very popular at one point and this is part of that line. It has a very strong statement to make regarding environmentalism so if you’re anti global warming you’ll hate this book. 

One of the premises of the book is that their society is controlled by only being allowed a 500 word vocabulary. The list of words for their vocabulary must be approved or you can be punished for using words that are not on this list including being kicked out to survive on your own without societal/family support. Reading the character dialogue when they were using The List was sometimes difficult as prepositions and other ‘connecting’ words are considered useless in this society. It definitely made for some stilted and cold relationships. The author seemed to pour all her effort into setting up the rules for this world but not character development as too many are mentioned then dropped out of the story just as quickly. At other times no real context or background is given to explain why one character would react the way they are towards another leaving it to feel awkward to the point of forced. Unfortunately underdevelopment seemed to be a common problem throughout the book as plot lines, characters, what went on to create this world, how a word is allowed to make the list, etc is never fully explored.

An interesting lesson taught in this story though is that words have power because they create ideas. Make people unable to talk beyond limited means and it will stifle their ability to think for themselves. Thankfully it’s a fully contrived story so there is a satisfying conclusion however the story is still set up a sequel could easily be done. 

After reading this I had a greater appreciation for Free Speech and it made me realize how important the arts are to our freedom and ability to create our own unique identities. Even with some obvious issues I still think the concept is a good one and would encourage people to read the book if only to open dialogue into the idea of the power behind words and if you were forced to create a list limiting human vocabulary what would you include and why?

*synopsis and pic from

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