A tempting concept marred by uninspired writing.

DEVASTATION CLASS

Teenage cadets must fight battles both within and outside their ranks to survive the unknown.

When the Kastazi—an alien race fleeing a dying planet—came to Earth, it started the Nine-Year War, but the Alliance destroyed them. Now in peacetime, the Alliance has launched the Explorers Program, selecting only the most elite cadets who will be future leaders. Leading them are JD and Viv. Overwhelmed by the program’s challenges, JD has been sabotaging himself. Meanwhile, Viv is consumed by the events surrounding her father’s death when new evidence of what happened appears. But none of that matters when their battleship, the UAS California, is unexpectedly attacked by a Kastazi Destroyer. The moment the cadets thought was far off is suddenly present: Seizing control of the ship, JD and Viv take risk after risk to fend off hostiles as the deep-rooted distrust between civilian students and cadets mounts. Just as the cadets think they’ve found respite, a new mystery unfolds, leaving them searching for answers. Readers who don’t mind the near-glacial buildup laying out the history with precise, technical language will be rewarded with the action that follows. Although there are several alternating first-person voices, JD and Viv are the most well-realized characters; their peers fall flat. Readers may get lost in the dialogue, as speech indicators are sparse. Main characters are cued as white; names suggest some ethnic diversity in the supporting cast.

A tempting concept marred by uninspired writing. (Science fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-310-76900-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A worthy successor to an explosive debut.

BLOODMARKED

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 2

After Awakening the dormant spirit of her ancestor King Arthur Pendragon, almost-17-year-old Briana Matthews must fight to learn and control her magical inheritances.

As a Black person who also possesses the ability to use Root, a form of magic borrowed from deceased practitioners and passed down to her through her mother’s family, Bree is unique in the Line of Pendragon. It is through blood and violence that Bree’s magical abilities intertwined—both those from Arthur’s Welsh origins and from her family’s Bloodcraft originating during chattel slavery in the American South. Together they have turned her into one of the most powerful people either Line has ever known. The intricacies of her navigation of her new powers are at the heart of this sequel to Legendborn (2020), especially as Bree balances the knowledge that her Blackness creates a critical distance between her and the racist people she is sworn to protect as the king of all Legendborns. The plot is complex, and the morsels of information that help fill in the gaps of knowledge don’t always feel fully formed, which may leave readers confused as they try to keep up with the new powers and beings that are presented. Still, there are important, if hard to read, references, for example, when Bree is kidnapped and experimented on by an all-White council, a turn of events that reflects Deonn’s commitment to presenting unflinching truths about the cyclical insidiousness of racism.

A worthy successor to an explosive debut. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4163-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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