The planet Loka was originally settled by humans fleeing Earth, but now part of the population is made up of Genetically...

TANKBORN

From the Tankborn series , Vol. 1

Advanced genetic engineering and upsettingly plausible caste oppression keep pages turning in this futuristic science fiction tale.

The planet Loka was originally settled by humans fleeing Earth, but now part of the population is made up of Genetically Engineered Non-humans. GENs rank lowest socially, destined by the Infinite to serve trueborns. They’re vulnerable at any moment to painful uploads (via facial tech-tattoo) into their brain and nerves or, worse, resetting—erasure of their consciousness so their body can be recycled. Teenage Kayla awaits her service Assignment with trepidation; she could be sent across the continent and never see her nurture-family again. Surprisingly Assigned to care for an elderly high-status trueborn (aren’t Kayla’s genetically enhanced super-strong arms geared for heavy lifting?), Kayla stumbles into forbidden friendship and baffling information that threatens her basic beliefs. Sandler tinkers with race issues, making high-status trueborns “the perfect color, a rich medium brown,” with lower-status humans and GENs either paler or darker. None of the three third-person-limited narrators have particularly distinct voices, but that’s OK: The prose is clear, though sometimes unpolished, and two underground movements—one evil, one righteous—provide plenty of charge, as does the exposure of Loka’s corrupt back story. A late revelation somewhat undermines the everyone’s human message, more through textual clumsiness than intention.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60060-662-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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