From the The Elected Series series , Vol. 1

This gender-fluid tale opens a dystopian series on a high note.

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This first installment of a YA SF trilogy introduces a teenage girl in North America’s post-apocalyptic future who must masquerade as a boy to serve as the absolute leader of an isolated realm.

In Shay’s dystopian tale, it is 2185, more than a century after climate change, mass extinctions, and nuclear war ravaged Earth. Surviving nations, facing shortages, infertility, and cancer cutting down populations, have agreed to “Eco-Crisis Accords” that pledge rollbacks on all that brought about civilization’s ruin. Now, they forbid electricity and other advanced technology, international travel, and representational democracy. Instead of parliaments and congresses, an “Elected” family serves 100-year terms, with men taking charge at age 18 to enforce the Accords. In struggling, cloistered East Country—which includes what used to be Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the Chesapeake Bay—first-person narrator Aloy and her dynasty occupy the White House, enjoying veneration, food, and no-longer-manufactured medication. But there is a price. The girl’s heir-apparent brother, Evan, ran away, leaving the inner circle no choice but to disguise Aloy as a boy, complete with an arranged fiancee, Vienne. Dutifully, Aloy ascends to the office of Elected on her 18th birthday and prepares for the sham marriage to the lovely, faithful Vienne while also earning the respect of the populace by fighting rising discontent from a faction that demands restoration of industry. In addition, outsiders may be causing trouble on the border. While there are plenty of intriguing ingredients in this YA hero-fronted novel, the story does take sexual elements, including the Sapphic, a bit beyond the usual PG-13 territory. (But nothing gets graphic, as it seems Aloy, while educated in everything else, has never been taught exactly how babies are made.) There are abundant incidents and crises packed into a fairly tight page count. It makes a bit of a difference that the antagonists—at least in this installment—are not Hunger Games–style sadistic elite castes or power-mad dictators. They are just people in extreme circumstances trying to do the morally correct things for the greater good to flourish, even when devotion to duty means deceit and cruelty (plus some evidently great sex). A big to-be-continued hangs over the finale.

This gender-fluid tale opens a dystopian series on a high note.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73204-790-7

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020


A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019


From the Empirium Trilogy series , Vol. 2

A very full mixed bag.

In the sequel to Furyborn (2018), Rielle and Eliana struggle across time with their powers and prophesied destinies.

Giving readers only brief recaps, this book throws them right into complicated storylines in this large, lovingly detailed fantasy world filled with multiple countries, two different time periods, and hostile angels. Newly ordained Rielle contends with villainous Corien’s interest in her, the weakening gate that holds the angels at bay, and distrust from those who don’t believe her to be the Sun Queen. A thousand years in the future, Eliana chafes under her unwanted destiny and finds her fear of losing herself to her powers (like the Blood Queen) warring with her need to save those close to her. The rigid alternation between time-separated storylines initially feels overstuffed, undermining tension, but once more characters get point-of-view chapters and parallels start paying off, the pace picks up. The multiethnic cast (human versus angelic is the only divide with weight) includes characters of many sexual orientations, and their romantic storylines include love triangles, casual dalliances, steady couples, and couples willing to invite in a third. While many of the physically intimate scenes are loving, some are rougher, including ones that cross lines of clear consent and introduce a level of violence that many young readers will not be ready for. The ending brings heartbreaking twists to prime readers for the trilogy’s conclusion.

A very full mixed bag. (map, list of elements) (Fantasy. 17-adult)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5665-4

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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