A thrilling, if overly action-packed, sci-fi adventure.

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TIME REAVERS

After discovering her ability to manipulate time, Nicole must fight otherworldly insects preparing to attack the human world.

Holo’s (The Dragons of Jupiter, 2013) novel begins in a hectic rush, as teenage Nicole finds herself seemingly the only moving person in a world suddenly frozen in time. She encounters Daniel, also moving in the freeze, and she’s given a crash course on tau guards—people like Daniel who have special powers when time stops—and reavers, giant metallic bugs that also freeze time and attack the tau guards. In the freeze, Nicole gains telekinetic powers, a rare ability among tau guards, and Daniel is assigned to keep an eye on her until she learns how to defend herself. Daniel has enough time to explain the world through the visual metaphor of a hamburger (an oft-mocked but surprisingly useful comparison) before reavers launch a well-coordinated ambush against the tau guards. After Nicole discovers that her sister, Amy—a goth girl so selfish she requested an adopted sister (Nicole) as a birthday present—is also a tau guard, Daniel and other tau guards take Nicole through a glut of nonstop fights to the secret city Chronopolis. During all this, nightmares haunt Nicole, leading her and her new friends to the true source of the danger. Though Nicole possesses special abilities—including the ability to hear what reavers think—her determination and quick thinking save her skin more than any newfound powers, and in spite of her fear, she remains funny and loyal. Characters joining the team on the way fit into standard categories—smarmy guy, tough young woman—but their bright, complicated personalities keep them from being stereotypes. After the fast opening, chapters rarely pass without a big, life-or-death battle, which leaves the novel in a nearly continuous intense state, which can be a bit overwhelming, though Holo’s clear descriptions prevent any confusion. The fast pace forces the narrative to truncate or skip lengthy explanations; since Nicole so frequently picks up history and fighting techniques as she goes, those lengthy explanations are hardly missed.

A thrilling, if overly action-packed, sci-fi adventure.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4942-6617-2

Page Count: 300

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

A GIFT OF POISON

From the The Kingmakers' War series , Vol. 1

A girl who has been dismissed and distrusted for most of her life must prove herself in this quest novel.

Briand Varryda dresses like a boy and is the unwanted ward of her uncle. Denied education and often even food, she realizes that her only friends are her cousin Bran and, sometimes, the soldier Tibus. Briand can look after herself: She’s good with a knife and light on her feet. But this time, she’s in real trouble. Briand has cleaned out one soldier too many at the card game Dubbok. When Tibus saves her from vengeful pursuers, he has no choice but to then turn her over to Kael, steward of her uncle’s castle—who has a reputation for cruelty and who, with the help of Bran’s loathsome tutor, Nath, is conducting secret experiments involving young noblemen and poisonous snakes. Kael gives her one last chance. Briand tries to go straight; she attempts to do the right thing. But when she intervenes in one of Kael’s experiments, she gets more than she bargained for. By passing a test meant for Bran, Briand becomes a “dragonsayer,” with “the ability to speak to and sometimes control animals of magic, particularly dragons.” From despised guttersnipe, she has now risen to being the kingdom’s last hope against the usurper prince and his deadly Seekers—but that’s no reason for her companions to think any better of her. In this short novel, Ellison (With Tide and Tempest, 2014, etc.) takes fantasy tropes and makes them feel original. The same achievement can be seen in characterization. Briand and all the others are easily recognizable types but still seem unique. Briand, in particular, is somehow not the typical orphan who makes good. This is made possible by the author’s no-nonsense prose and pacing and some astute worldbuilding. The necessary background details (with the exception of some that find their way into speech) are foreshadowed rather than dumped. This allows Briand to forge her own path and for the story to grip and take hold. Although this is the first book in a series, the plot is largely self-contained. Readers will be left with closure but still wanting more.

Familiar territory plumbed afresh; fantasy fans should be pleased.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5028-7264-7

Page Count: 286

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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