NINTH CITY BURNING by J. Patrick Black


Email this review


After an alien invasion and near-instantaneous human extinction that unleashed a force called “thelemity,” which "certain people can use to affect reality,” most humans live in militarized zones under siege; but there are also warring, nomadic tribes from whose “coda” come two sisters, thelemity adepts, who tip the balance of power.

Narrated by seven characters, Black’s debut novel, the first in a new series, situates a future Earth in a parallel and “infinite web of worlds—the Realms” which, “drawn out as a map…look something like a tree,” a shameless steal from Marvel’s Thor. Unknown aliens, nicknamed "Romeo" or the “Valentines,” arrived on Valentine’s Day through the gateway called Lunar Veil to devastate Earth—why is never clear. The rare humans known as fontani, who produce thelemity, or revenni, "who can use thelemity to impose their will upon the world,” fight back. After 500 years of battle, Earth’s fate will be in the hands of the seven young narrators, who range from Jax, a 12-year-old military cadet and fontanus, to the easygoing Vinneas, Procurator of the Academy; from the Walker sisters, Rae and Naomi, to drafted soldier Torro; from “artifex” Kizabel—who speaks in footnotes—to elite fighter Imway. Peppered with both irritating incongruities—what happened to global warming? did it just go away? how can Romeo concoct long-gone human things like lobster bisque or television?—and with sly pop-culture references, this tediously militaristic potboiler is formulaic: the underdogs, through honor, strength, and thelemity, become heroes with a little help from their friends.

Black borrows a long list of sci-fi/fantasy ingredients to cook up a Hunger Games/Star Wars remix featuring tweens trapped in an unmotivated war which will make them unlikely-but-relatable heroes.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-101-99144-2
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Ace/Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2016


FictionENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
by Orson Scott Card
ChildrenTHE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
by Suzanne Collins