THE SPHERE OF SECRETS

BOOK TWO OF THE ORACLE PROPHECIES

Assassination attempts, double-crosses and plots within plots enliven this breathlessly paced follow-up to The Oracle Betrayed (2004). This offering finds Mirany, priestess and reluctant conspirator, and Seth, scribe and conniver extraordinaire, thoroughly ensnared in the intrigue surrounding the boy Archon Alexos—physical embodiment of the god—and General Argelin and Speaker-for-the-God Hermia, who together seek total worldly power. The trigger for this adventure is the Sphere of Secrets, offered to the Oracle by emissaries of the Emperor, whose plan to develop silver mines in the desert runs counter to Argelin’s dark goals. The Sphere, it turns out, is a map to the mythical Well of Songs, and it sets Alexos, Seth, the drunken bard Oblek and the mysterious lord-cum-thief known only as the Jackal questing across the desert while Mirany stays behind to endure a siege of the City by the thwarted minions of the Emperor. The narrative cuts back and forth from storyline to storyline in a series of mini-cliffhangers—which maintain an almost painfully heightened tension right to the end—that will have readers queuing for the concluding volume. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-057161-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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A humdinger of a cliffhanger will leave readers clamoring for volume three.

CATCHING FIRE

From the Hunger Games series , Vol. 2

In the sequel to the hugely popular The Hunger Games (2008), Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, having won the annual Games, are now rich and famous—and trapped in the fiction that they are lovers. They are seen as a threat to the Capitol, their unusual manner of winning an act of rebellion that could inspire uprisings throughout Panem. Knowing her life is in danger, Katniss considers escaping with her family and friends but instead reluctantly assumes the role of a rebel, almost forced into it by threats from the insidious President Snow.

Beyond the expert world building, the acute social commentary and the large cast of fully realized characters, there’s action, intrigue, romance and some amount of hope in a story readers will find completely engrossing. Collins weaves in enough background for this novel to stand alone, but it will be a far richer experience for those who have read the first installment and come to love Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch and the rest of the desperate residents of this dystopia.

A humdinger of a cliffhanger will leave readers clamoring for volume three. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-439-02349-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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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