In an alternate world in which the U.S. lost World War II, a young man grapples with the cost of revolution.
Almost 80 years ago, the United States was divided among the Axis powers, and Imperial Japan now controls the land from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Sixteen-year-old American Ren Cabot helps out at his father’s tailoring shop and has tried to avoid trouble ever since his mother’s brutal execution for running an illegal newspaper. It’s a difficult life for biracial Ren in this democratically stunted world. His father is white, and his mother was Chinese-American. Richmond plays this cleverly against the backdrop of a fascist regime that believes itself to be “superior in every way—mentally, physically, and especially racially.” When his father stumbles home injured one night, Ren decides to join the Resistance and aid in a dangerous plot to kidnap the Japanese princess and storm Alcatraz—now a laboratory that conducts experiments to create engineered superhuman soldiers and that may possibly house Ren’s deepest hopes. In this stand-alone companion to The Only Thing to Fear (2014), Richmond skillfully embellishes a dystopian fantasy world shaped by actual events in history. However, readers may be frustrated that the narrative often shoulders plot explanations—secondary characters launch into long, implausible confessionals to tie up loose ends—and there are numerous far-fetched reveals.
The historically enticing premise is brilliantly crafted, but the story too often becomes ungainly. (Alternative history/dystopian adventure. 12-16)