Exciting aerial battles, political machinations, and a bit of romance make this hard for readers to put down.

FLAMEFALL

From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 2

With war on the horizon and civil unrest brewing at home, what options are left for the dragonriders of Callipolis?

Picking up where Fireborne (2019) left off, the dragonlords are eager to start their siege of Callipolis while the Guardians struggle with famine and unrest on their own shores. As Firstrider, Antigone sur Aela is responsible for leading the charge, but with her best rider, Lee sur Pallor, suffering from flameshock, she must change her strategy. As things unfold, Lee and other riders begin to ask questions: Hunger, rationing, and withheld information make them wonder if maybe the rebels are right. In New Pythos, the old regime’s dragons have sparked and are ready for war. But will the cruelty of the dragonlords push the humble-riders to rebel? Can the Guardians and the humble-riders work together to build something new? Class rather than race is significant in Callipolis; those who test into Gold or Silver have resources that Bronze and Iron classes can never dream of. While framed as equity, this doesn’t sit well with those who remember what came before and is the catalyst for unrest. Point-of-view chapters show complexities, provoking readers to think. In addition to the central will-they, won’t-they love story, there is a lovely subplot with a same-sex, cross-class romance.

Exciting aerial battles, political machinations, and a bit of romance make this hard for readers to put down. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-51824-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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