Complex worldbuilding provides a strong backbone for this well-written start to a planned series with a resolute heroine.

GAMBIT

From the The Prodigy Chronicles series , Vol. 1

In this YA dystopian adventure, a village girl with special skills learns she’s an heiress—and betrothed.

In the future, wars and climate change have greatly altered Earth’s geography. City centers, known as Cores, hoard technology, trees, wealth, and genetic prodigies for themselves, protected from the Outlying Lands, where poor villagers labor to supply Core industries. Willow Kent, 16, works in her parents’ village tavern and attends school, dreaming of performing well enough to enlarge her opportunities. All that changes when Cmdr. Reece of the Core shows up. Imperious, rude, and genetically enhanced (for example, he’s “impossibly tall” and stunningly handsome), he learns and reveals several secrets about Willow. Still reeling, Willow is compelled to accompany Reece to the Core, where—as the true heiress to a great family—she must marry the son of a rival house to bring peace. Her tempestuous emotions, already aroused by homesickness and anger, are further stoked by Reece’s flirtations; although she hates his cruelty and arrogance and he shows little patience for her rebelliousness (“Ogre.” “Brat.”), he sets off continual sparks in her. Meanwhile, Willow has much to learn about her gifts and about navigating the dangerous Core. In this debut novel, Denault (a contributor to Fairly Twisted Tales for a Horribly Ever After, 2014) carefully constructs a dystopian future world, giving it fullness, complexity, and consistency.  For example, Willow grows up with village modesty and long skirts; her horror at the Core’s revealing swimsuits is believable—and makes an intriguing contrast to the raw power she unleashes when the pool is attacked. At times, Reece and Willow’s love/hate dynamic, with its “volatile mix of violence and tenderness,” gets uncomfortably close to portraying an abusive relationship. But Willow’s unstoppable determination—her inner tiger—keeps her from becoming a victim, and it’s good to see a teenage girl owning her desire as well as her anger. Readers are likely to stick with this long first volume and look forward to sequels.

Complex worldbuilding provides a strong backbone for this well-written start to a planned series with a resolute heroine.

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-73-444413-1

Page Count: 530

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2016

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A sometimes-riveting sci-fi series opener featuring multidimensional characters and an exciting, if violent, climax.

True Born

A dystopian YA novel in which sheltered twins realize that their world’s problems are more personal than they ever imagined.

Lucinda “Lu” Fox and her twin, Margot, daughters of the “Chief Diplomat of the continent-state of Nor-Am,” live in a gated mansion, ride to school in a limo, and may be Splicers—candidates for DNA alterations to protect them from dying of the Plague that’s wiped out half the planet. Graffiti scrawled throughout the city demands “Evolve or die,” causing Lu to wonder about Lasters, desperate people who are unable to afford Splicing in a society where even “hospitals…can’t keep people alive, not anymore.” Could she be a Laster, too? Why else is she undergoing the multiple rounds of tests called Protocols? Sterling (Pluto’s Gate, 2016, etc.) creates a complex world in which such tests “can pretty much pinpoint when your genes will blow,” and wealthy teens discover whether Splicing will work for them at lavish 18th birthday parties. However, a month before the twins’ “Reveal,” Margot is kidnapped. To rescue her, Lu must rely on their psychic connection, as well as her father’s strange new bodyguards. Could they be True Born—genetic mutants untouched by the Plague and shunned by the rest of society? Lu’s intense attraction to young bodyguard Jared interferes with her ability to protect Margot and her family’s interests. Yet when the city erupts into civil war, her loyalties—as well as her identity—come into question. This novel offers absorbing romance and rising intrigue. Sterling’s overall premise borrows liberally from The X-Men, as mutants are depicted as protectors, playthings, and predators of regular humans, yet the fate of the world depends on their abilities. A few scenarios, though, will likely stretch readers’ suspension of disbelief: after a man transforms into a panther, how many attacks must occur on school grounds before parents stop sending their kids? In the end, Sterling leaves some loose ends dangling, promising two more books in the trilogy.

A sometimes-riveting sci-fi series opener featuring multidimensional characters and an exciting, if violent, climax.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63375-319-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2016

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Quarantine this pointless book

THE GIANT

From the Quarantine series , Vol. 4

The story of a supporting character from the first novel in the Quarantine series adds a fourth book to the trilogy.

Gonzalo (whose ambiguous racial markers might read as Latino) was the muscle for the Loners clique, leaving it only to return to the infected zone for his girlfriend, Sasha. The bulk of the novel uses a rigid alternating-chapter structure that switches between his search in the present and his experiences during the events of The Loners (2012). The past storyline reveals that, before a three-month growth spurt turned Gonzalo into a hulk, he was small enough that he fell in with a secret clique, the Mice, who stole from the others. Besides that, it effectively retreads the previous book, treating a barely seen romance based on physical attraction like an epic love. In the present, Gonzalo’s struggles to find Sasha force him to team up with a treacherous old enemy, who frequently calls Gonzalo dumb (the text supports the antagonist’s interpretation of Gonzalo’s intelligence). The tensionless wild goose chase is marked by gross-out gore in lieu of suspense, which matches the faux-edgy tone evoked by a fetishization of nonconsensual sexuality (which receives just as much attention as the lovers’ relationship). Only one twist near the end works, and only then because the worldbuilding is so sketchy.

Quarantine this pointless book . (Science fiction. 16-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0103-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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