Not a stand-alone but an essential conclusion with indelible moments.



From the Empress of a Thousand Skies series , Vol. 2

Separated, unaware of the others, three teens try to wrest control of the galaxy from an evil celebrity in this sequel to Empress of a Thousand Skies (2017).

Nero, a “holovision star with a pretty face” who’s seized rule of the galaxy, seeks the overwriter—technology that mines memories, erases history, and controls populations by mind control. Does it really exist? Working against him are: Rhee, reluctantly acting as empress because her older sister, rightful inheritor of the Ta’an dynasty, is missing; Kara, who is Rhee’s sister, alive but undercover, hoping to save humanity yet erase herself with the overwriter; and Aly, a boy who loves Kara, thinks she’s dead, and joins a plot to assassinate Nero—as revenge for Kara and for obliterating Aly’s home planet. Rhee and Kara have tan skin; Aly is black. As Nero orchestrates explosions and airs deceptive holovision broadcasts, the teens’ fierce little “orbit of soldiers and refugees and loyalists” comes together and apart on various planets. Violence is everywhere, and the protagonists labor under misunderstandings, trauma, and loneliness. Belleza’s plot is terrific, though the writing is not as smooth as in its predecessor. Reveals are profound in substance, though the moments of revelation pack less punch than they could. Given its relative choppiness and rushed feeling, this sequel should be read immediately after Empress, to import its heart.

Not a stand-alone but an essential conclusion with indelible moments. (map, character list, planet list) (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-99913-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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

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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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