Though flawed, this first volume in a new trilogy has much to offer genre enthusiasts.

BELOW

From the Broken Sky Chronicles series , Vol. 1

Hokk scavenges the dead bodies falling from the sky, but when he finds one alive, everything changes.

An unusual twist on the post-apocalyptic theme finds humanity split into two races. Above, on the floating islands, dark-skinned humans live separated by class and surrounded by mythology. Below, the pale-skinned people crowd into the burned-out cities or try to survive in the vast wastelands. Other than the occasional dead body or trinket dropped from above, the two civilizations have no contact. That’s until Hokk, serving out a sentence of exile in the wastelands, finds Elia, who has miraculously survived her plummet from her island home. Charged with the safekeeping of a mysterious box, Elia is desperate to return to her island. Hokk has other plans. The third-person narration switches focus between the two, giving readers insight into their thoughts and motivations. Hokk’s duplicity and amorality make him an unsympathetic hero. Elia is similarly hampered by her frustrating naiveté. Worldbuilding inconsistencies abound. Below, grasses grow without sunlight, and the agrarian civilization Above exists without rain; a telescope is proclaimed “a miracle” in a society with working elevators. Still, although it meanders at times, the novel eventually finds its way to a satisfying conclusion and setup for Volume 2.

Though flawed, this first volume in a new trilogy has much to offer genre enthusiasts. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68162-601-7

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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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