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

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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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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