With rebellions, ideological questions and a nonwhite, not-entirely-heterosexual cast, this series is a strong addition to...

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REBELLION

From the Tankborn series , Vol. 3

Surprising new obstacles crop up in the Tankborn series finale.

As Awakening (2013) ended, an explosion left Kayla’s and Devak’s fates unknown. Devak awakens to learn that medical expenses for his slow-healing injuries have cost him and his great-grandfather their high social status. Far away, Kayla’s a prisoner in an underground compound run by cult leader Ohin. She and Devak each think the other’s dead. Ohin claims that his movement—Freedom, Humanity, Equality—will bring liberation from slavery for all Genetically Engineered Non-Humans, but Kayla’s a GEN herself and knows that the FHE bombs GEN food warehouses and homes. As Kayla untangles Ohin’s lies and plots her escape (bonding with some giant, organic-but-technologically-controlled spiders), Devak tracks down an elusive, FHE-connected boy who has information about Kayla. His friend Junjie helps, insisting that his crush on this FHE boy isn’t the only reason to trust him. Gone is the fatal illness that dominated Awakening, but now GENs are intentionally damaging their own electronic circuitry—and neurology—to escape the grid that tracks them. Sandler tackles caste systems, slavery and terrorism (including its muddled logic) head-on. Cumbersome prose renders the piece longer than it should be and clumsy on the sentence-to-sentence level, but the plotting’s terrific.

With rebellions, ideological questions and a nonwhite, not-entirely-heterosexual cast, this series is a strong addition to the genre. (glossary) (Science fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-984-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Yet another bland, half-baked dystopian exercise.

CRAZY HOUSE

A teen girl goes looking for her missing twin sister.

In the absence of their parents, Cassie and Becca, both white, are doing their best to tend to the family farm. One morning, Cassie wakes up to discover Becca is missing. Meanwhile, Becca wakens in a horrific children’s prison, in which the detained are forced to fight to the death. As Cassie searches for her sister, Becca does her best to survive the torture her captors put her through. The novel is set in a future in which populations are organized geographically into isolated cells. The government controls all the information going in and out. More lurks beneath the surface, and the book sets up further installments, but few readers will feel the need to keep reading. The world is poorly built, the characters are dreadfully thin, and the plotting is drastically uneven. When Cassie and Becca are finally reunited, readers will have little reason to celebrate: their relationship is so thinly sketched they barely feel like sisters. The torture sequences in the teen prison are gratuitous and dreary. A last-minute twist is easily predicted, making the slow, tedious burn toward the reveal and the barely distinguishable characters all the more intolerable.

Yet another bland, half-baked dystopian exercise. (Dystopian adventure. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-43131-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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