An incongruous blend of medieval mythology and steampunk action; only for fans of the first book.

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AVALON RISING

From the Metal & Lace series , Vol. 2

Steampunk mechanic and former handmaiden Vivienne seeks the Holy Grail and her true love, Marcus, in this sequel to Camelot Burning (2014).

With Arthur dead, Guinevere gone, and the knights dispersed, Camelot is a ghost town. Vivienne toils in Merlin’s ruined mechanical workshop, missing her mentor and her (chaste) boyfriend, until an unexpected alliance allows her to finish her aeroship and set out on a convoluted quest. Vivienne soon locates the Fisher King and reunites with Marcus, but she also becomes a target for the Black Knight—here, a Spanish rogue with a mind-reading mechanical eye—due to her knowledge of Avalon’s coordinates. Vivienne’s melodramatic relationship with Marcus brings welcome depth to otherwise flat characters primarily defined by their destinies. Action is abundant, but the life-or-death stakes are undermined by the impermanence of death in this amalgamated world. The arbitrary separation between Middle Eastern–derived mechanical arts and British-born magic—centered on the “science” of alchemy—blurs as Vivienne dabbles with spells and duels with demigods. Rose aims for but fails to capture either the magic of Arthurian legends or the logic of steampunk: Arthurian elements (names, settings, plotlines, and religion) are superficial, while the steampunk core (inventions, empire, and fashion) falters in a nonindustrial, feudal time period.

An incongruous blend of medieval mythology and steampunk action; only for fans of the first book. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7387-4489-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.

THUNDERHEAD

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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