A tale that offers mesmerizing worldbuilding and complex explorations of gender relations in a frightening dystopia.

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VALLEY OF THE BEES

OMNIBUS

In the near future, a teenager tries to navigate growing up in a world where women are treated as property in this debut YA novel.

For the past three years, 16-year-old Valley Bickerstaff has raised bees under the guidance of her beloved grandmother. Living in a river bottom, one of the few places that the insects can still flourish, Valley faces a world in which most of the planet’s bees were killed by pesticides years earlier, leading to environmental devastation in the form of famines and plague. Countries seem to have broken down into simple townships, each run by its own local leaders, and society has sadly regressed when it comes to women, who are once again considered chattel to be sold for land and money. The tale truly kicks off when Valley’s cruel Uncle Jacob promises her hand in marriage to the son of a nearby official, Mayor Tellar, who arranges a hasty wedding. “Now, I know how you young ladies like to plan these things yourself,” the mayor tells Valley. “But, your uncle wanted our agreement consummated as soon as possible. I assume you understand how important this marriage is to your family.” This leads her to immediately plan an escape. Webster has written a richly detailed work whose world feels legitimate and lived-in, letting readers gradually, seamlessly experience it rather than overwhelming them with exposition. Meanwhile, Valley is an empathetic, compassionate protagonist who feels three-dimensional from start to finish. Her caring for the bees establishes an instant connection with the reader. The complications of her friendship with another teenager, Reyna, who has fallen in love with her, as well as the intricate bonds that tie her to her family make for an engrossing drama. Furthermore, her relationship with her grandmother, as well as the unfolding of a number of buried family secrets that cause her to question a great deal of what she thought she knew, provides a brilliant throughline. The love triangle involving two young men vying for her affections is less intriguing, and at times the book’s slow pacing can lead to lulls. But if one surrenders to its gentler rhythms, the story delivers a captivating and thought-provoking read.

A tale that offers mesmerizing worldbuilding and complex explorations of gender relations in a frightening dystopia.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5407-5778-4

Page Count: 398

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

THE BOOK OF KOLI

The first volume in Carey’s Rampart trilogy is set centuries into a future shaped by war and climate change, where the scant remains of humankind are threatened by genetically modified trees and plants.

Teenager Koli Woodsmith lives in Mythen Rood, a village of about 200 people in a place called Ingland, which has other names such as “Briton and Albion and Yewkay.” He was raised to cultivate, and kill, the wood from the dangerous trees beyond Mythen Rood’s protective walls. Mythen Rood is governed by the Ramparts (made up entirely of members of one family—what a coincidence), who protect the village with ancient, solar-powered tech. After the Waiting, a time in which each child, upon turning 15, must decide their future, Koli takes the Rampart test: He must “awaken” a piece of old tech. After he inevitably fails, he steals a music player which houses a charming “manic pixie dream girl” AI named Monono, who reveals a universe of knowledge. Of course, a little bit of knowledge can threaten entire societies or, in Koli’s case, a village held in thrall to a family with unfettered access to powerful weapons. Koli attempts to use the device to become a Rampart, he becomes their greatest threat, and he’s exiled to the world beyond Mythen Rood. Luckily, the pragmatic Koli has his wits, Monono, and an ally in Ursala, a traveling doctor who strives to usher in a healthy new generation of babies before humanity dies out for good. Koli will need all the help he can get, especially when he’s captured by a fearsome group ruled by a mad messianic figure who claims to have psychic abilities. Narrator Koli’s inquisitive mind and kind heart make him the perfect guide to Carey’s (Someone Like Me, 2018, etc.) immersive, impeccably rendered world, and his speech and way of life are different enough to imagine the weight of what was lost but still achingly familiar, and as always, Carey leavens his often bleak scenarios with empathy and hope. Readers will be thrilled to know the next two books will be published in short order.

A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-47753-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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