An excellent franchise entry that proves planned series can be just as enjoyable as one-offs.

THE RULE OF THOUGHTS

From the Mortality Doctrine series , Vol. 2

A trio of gaming teens battles a corrupt computer program that is hellbent on leading a virtual army into our reality.

Upon completing the Path in The Eye of Minds (2013), Michael discovered he’s nothing more than a Tangent, a stray bit of computer code that has gained sentience. Now downloaded into the brain of teenager Jackson Porter, Michael must find his friends and get ahead of Kaine, the villainous Tangent that has discovered the ability to invade the real world by corrupting human bodies with Tangent consciousnesses. Dashner has created an excellent sequel, filled with propulsive character development and a self-contained emotional arc woven through plot threads that properly lead to future installments. The escalation in plotting is smartly paced and paired with well-balanced characters that feel real rather than just character types. The author’s use of nifty technobabble goes a long way in describing a future that, refreshingly, is not dystopian in any way. Amid a sea of trilogies and series devoid of imagination or smarts, the Mortality Doctrine stands tall by having both in equal measure. This episode does end on a cliffhanger, but the enjoyable ride and arresting scenario make it easy to swallow.

An excellent franchise entry that proves planned series can be just as enjoyable as one-offs. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74141-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit.

THESE HOLLOW VOWS

Brie risks the deadly land of the Fae to save her sister.

Brie doesn’t trust many people other than Jas, her eternally hopeful sister, and Sebastian, mage apprentice and Brie’s secret love (as if she had time for romance). Brie struggles to meet the payments for the magical contracts binding their lives to Madame Vivias, supplementing her cleaning work by stealing from the rich. While the land of Faerie tempts other girls with word of a castle, a lavish ball, and a fae prince seeking a wife, Brie mistrusts the creatures who capitalize on humanity’s greed. When Jas’ contract is sold to the fae, Brie braves the golden Seelie queen’s court, meets the noble Prince Ronan, and travels on to the Unseelie king’s shadow court. In the process she discovers love, historical secrets, atrocities, and her own hidden strength. While many elements regarding the fae and a love triangle will feel familiar to fans of the genre, and the magic could have been more fleshed out, discussions of power, inequity, trust, and hope expand the worldbuilding in refreshing ways. Similarly, consideration of the balance between truth and secrets, lies and stories, is intriguing as it’s applied to characters, relationships, and historical lore. Despite certain predictable reveals, the plot itself, which starts off slowly, picks up and is pleasantly convoluted with multiple satisfying surprises. Major human characters read as White.

An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38657-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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