An often appealing series continuation with a well-thought-out world and strong characters.


From the The Prodigy Chronicles series , Vol. 2

A teenage heiress with superpowers learns to handle her temper in this YA dystopian sequel.

In the year 2160, “prodigies”—people born with very special talents—live in wealthy city centers called Cores, and rule over “normals,” who live in poor villages of the Outlying Lands. Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent grew up in one such village, thinking herself a normal. But her life was upended when she discovered that she’s actually the daughter of a powerful Core family, the Roanokes, and betrothed to Thess Tiernam, the scion of a rival house. Willow also learned that she has powerful skills—specifically, an often angry presence that she feels in her stomach, which she calls her “tiger,” that gives her intuition, physical strength, and a heightened sense of smell, among other abilities. Willow doesn’t know the cultural rules in her new world, and although she vows to learn “to play the Core’s game,” her stubbornness and temper could cause her problems. She has some allies, such as Cmdr. Reece,with whom she shares a strong if volatile attraction, but also enemies, such as the cold, harsh Cmdr. Kristoffe. The wild card is Tobias “Toby” Cartier, a mesmerizing shape-shifter whom everyone but Willow’s tiger tells her not to trust. As Willow hones her skills and acclimates to the Core, she comes to realize that she, too, can adapt in unexpected ways. Denault (Gambit, 2015) continues to offer three-dimensional worldbuilding in this series installment, including richly detailed clothing and combat and plenty of asides that conjure up the future culture. Willow never learned to write, for example, because in villages, most paper goes to the bank, “where recordkeeping was required for taxing villagers. If supplies were low…they bleached old records to make blanks.” This lengthy sequel is entertaining and full of dramatic episodes, but it doesn’t significantly advance the plot; instead, it focuses on the tug of war between Willow and her opponents. The ending doesn’t offer a clear-cut resolution, but it will presumably arrive in a future installment.

An often appealing series continuation with a well-thought-out world and strong characters.

Pub Date: March 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7344441-5-5

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2019

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

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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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Some quality worldbuilding, but the story only inches along.


Juliette, the girl with the deadly touch, struggles to fit in with the resistance movement that saved her at the end of Shatter Me (2011).

In training to participate in an inevitable war against the Reestablishment, Juliette Ferrars should feel at home at Omega Point. In addition to no longer being a prisoner, she is surrounded by other people with supernatural gifts. Compassionate Castle tries to help her master her abilities, and Kenji tries to help her fit in, but the devastating nature of Juliette’s power hampers her efforts. Additionally, Adam is acting strangely—in large part because of his work with Castle to determine why he is able to touch Juliette safely—which causes difficulties in their relationship. Soon some of her new comrades are abducted while on patrol by soldiers led by Warner’s father, who demands a meeting with Juliette. The resistance is able to come away from the meeting with a hostage, Warner, who resumes his part in the established love triangle. Too much of the plot relies on Juliette’s withholding of important information and revelations, even against her own judgment. The bloated relationship drama takes priority over the captive resistance members in the buildup to the climax, which finally brings action before setting up the next novel.

Some quality worldbuilding, but the story only inches along. (Science fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-208553-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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