This graphic read solidly sets fans up for the next volume.

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THE WHITE ROSE

From the Jewel series , Vol. 2

Science and magic, royalty and rabble begin to clash in this dystopian sequel (The Jewel, 2014).

The Duchess of the Lake bought teenage Violet at Auction to serve as a surrogate mother, ushering her into a luxurious life in the Jewel, which occupies the heart of the concentric Lone City. Horrified by rampant exploitation and experimentation, Violet just wanted freedom. Now imprisoned for an indiscretion with the off-limits Ash, male companion to the royal daughters, Violet petitions enigmatic eunuch Lucien for assistance. Aided by a secret society but hunted by the Regimentals, Ash and Violet slowly escape, their passage fraught with danger—and many characters’ back stories. In exchange for her freedom, Violet must become a figurehead for the revolution, rousing rabble, scaring surrogates, and employing the native, elemental magic of the island against the colonialist oppressors. Violet’s path is clearly mapped by Lucien (and the author) and follows the trendy solitary-heroine–vs.–corrupt-rulers trope, but the plentiful action, complex characters, and mix of science and magic help avoid predictability. However, the magical empowerment of the surrogates and stark socioeconomic inequalities do not explain the illogical disposability of surrogates, undermining both the premise and the high stakes. Ewing bravely blends several genres—science fiction, fantasy, medical thriller, dystopian—and semisuccessfully balances teen romance and angst against family drama, rape accusations, prostitution, and slavery.

This graphic read solidly sets fans up for the next volume. (Dystopian romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-223581-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.

THUNDERHEAD

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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