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SKY WITHOUT STARS

From the System Divine series , Vol. 1

A fast-paced, immersive, and imaginative romp.

Political and romantic intrigues ignite when three young people’s lives intersect in the slums of Laterre, one of the 12 planets humans settled after the First World ended.

This first installment in an ambitious epic modeled after Les Misérables depicts a futuristic society with a class system loosely modeled on the estates of pre-Revolutionary France and a thriving criminal underbelly policed by a fearsome cyborg inspecteur. Brown-haired, gray-eyed thief Chatine, the daughter of a dangerous gang leader, is known in public as a boy called Théo, but her real identity is not her only secret. A chance encounter with the handsome, dark-haired grandson of a high-ranking Second Estate general leads to her being hired to spy on Marcellus, whose father was in the Vangarde, a resistance group. The use of an old written language for secret communications by the resistance is a compelling element. Meanwhile, dark-haired Alouette, who never knew her mother, is tech-savvy and kind. Raised by a mysterious order that protects the books and histories of the First World, she is curious about the world outside the Refuge but finds herself in over her head when she sneaks out and meets Marcellus. The authors play with formulaic elements to freshen the story. Skin color is rarely mentioned, and the book seemingly defaults to white despite the presence of black people in early modern France.

A fast-paced, immersive, and imaginative romp. (maps) (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1063-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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