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 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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A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come.

THE WICKED KING

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 2

A heady blend of courtly double-crossing, Faerie lore, and toxic attraction swirls together in the sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018).

Five months after engineering a coup, human teen Jude is starting to feel the strain of secretly controlling King Cardan and running his Faerie kingdom. Jude’s self-loathing and anger at the traumatic events of her childhood (her Faerie “dad” killed her parents, and Faerie is not a particularly easy place even for the best-adjusted human) drive her ambition, which is tempered by her desire to make the world she loves and hates a little fairer. Much of the story revolves around plotting (the Queen of the Undersea wants the throne; Jude’s Faerie father wants power; Jude’s twin, Taryn, wants her Faerie betrothed by her side), but the underlying tension—sexual and political—between Jude and Cardan also takes some unexpected twists. Black’s writing is both contemporary and classic; her world is, at this point, intensely well-realized, so that some plot twists seem almost inevitable. Faerie is a strange place where immortal, multihued, multiformed denizens can’t lie but can twist everything; Jude—who can lie—is an outlier, and her first-person, present-tense narration reveals more than she would choose. With curly dark brown hair, Jude and Taryn are never identified by race in human terms.

A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come. (map) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-31035-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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