A quick and satisfying middle volume that may make readers almost wish it was the end. (Science fiction. 13-17)

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FUTURE THREAT

From the Future Shock series , Vol. 2

The second installment in Briggs’ time-travel trilogy introduces new players and conspiracies that threaten Elena’s present and future.

Six months after the events of Future Shock (2016), Mexican-American Elena Martinez is adjusting to money in the bank, college classes, and a sweet relationship with caring and brilliant Adam, a white boy and fellow survivor of Aether Corp.’s deadly mission to the future. But Aether isn’t done with them. Aether forces Elena, Adam, and their final team member, Chris—a black 19-year-old who’s about to become a father—to return to the future 30 years hence to rescue the missing team of teens they sent to commit corporate espionage. Once in the future, Elena, Adam, and Chris discover their future selves are living the dream, but the mission itself, of course, turns disastrous. Those who survive it then attempt subsequent and even more dangerous jumps to the same timeline. There’s a diverse set of new characters: Jeremy, the Aether CEO’s resentful, white, MIT–grad son; Zahra, a no-nonsense Iranian-American hacker from Beverly Hills; Ken, a half-Japanese, half-white chemist; and Paige, a perky white gymnast—with roguish Zahra by far the most interesting. The action is well-executed when not bogged down in specifics of time travel. As for romance, Briggs raises the stakes in this entry, showing Elena and Adam exactly how beautiful their future could be if they fight for it.

A quick and satisfying middle volume that may make readers almost wish it was the end. (Science fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8075-2684-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment.

LADY SMOKE

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 2

A rebel queen fans the sparks of revolution.

Picking up immediately after the events of Ash Princess (2018), Sebastian’s expansive sequel finds young Queen Theodosia—her title newly reclaimed—fleeing her country and throne. With her people still enslaved, Theo will need allies and an army to free them, and her aunt, the fierce and manipulative pirate Dragonsbane, insists that the only way to acquire either is if Theo marries—something no queen has ever done in Astrea’s history. Wracked by nightmares, guilt, and fear that she is losing herself (and more), Theo balks but, with few options open to her, grudgingly agrees to meet with suitors at a grand invitational hosted by the king of the opulent Sta’Crivero. Readers looking for further immersion and expansion of Theo’s world will not be disappointed here. The narrative suffers marginally from lengthy details picked up and soon put back down with no real service to plot or character development, but Theo’s first-person narration remains enthralling with emotional immediacy as she learns more and more about her world and the people (and cruelty) within it. Vengeance, political corruption, and mystery are the main drivers, and questions of trauma, empathy, and sacrifice hold the reigns as Theo grapples with emergent magic, inconvenient romances, and the crushing weight of her choices as a leader.

Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment. (maps) (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6710-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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