A dystopian YA novel in which sheltered twins realize that their world’s problems are more personal than they ever imagined.
Lucinda “Lu” Fox and her twin, Margot, daughters of the “Chief Diplomat of the continent-state of Nor-Am,” live in a gated mansion, ride to school in a limo, and may be Splicers—candidates for DNA alterations to protect them from dying of the Plague that’s wiped out half the planet. Graffiti scrawled throughout the city demands “Evolve or die,” causing Lu to wonder about Lasters, desperate people who are unable to afford Splicing in a society where even “hospitals…can’t keep people alive, not anymore.” Could she be a Laster, too? Why else is she undergoing the multiple rounds of tests called Protocols? Sterling (Pluto’s Gate, 2016, etc.) creates a complex world in which such tests “can pretty much pinpoint when your genes will blow,” and wealthy teens discover whether Splicing will work for them at lavish 18th birthday parties. However, a month before the twins’ “Reveal,” Margot is kidnapped. To rescue her, Lu must rely on their psychic connection, as well as her father’s strange new bodyguards. Could they be True Born—genetic mutants untouched by the Plague and shunned by the rest of society? Lu’s intense attraction to young bodyguard Jared interferes with her ability to protect Margot and her family’s interests. Yet when the city erupts into civil war, her loyalties—as well as her identity—come into question. This novel offers absorbing romance and rising intrigue. Sterling’s overall premise borrows liberally from The X-Men, as mutants are depicted as protectors, playthings, and predators of regular humans, yet the fate of the world depends on their abilities. A few scenarios, though, will likely stretch readers’ suspension of disbelief: after a man transforms into a panther, how many attacks must occur on school grounds before parents stop sending their kids? In the end, Sterling leaves some loose ends dangling, promising two more books in the trilogy.
A sometimes-riveting sci-fi series opener featuring multidimensional characters and an exciting, if violent, climax.