A grim and unrelenting tale in the best traditions of the dystopian genre.




A debut novel sees a teenager learn to survive in a post-apocalyptic world rife with civil breakdowns and religious mania.

Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Donner lives in Roslyn, a small town close to Seattle. Sera’s mom has discovered religion. She is making Sera and her twin brother, David, attend a church wedding at the very time when, tragically, an earthquake destroys the building. Sera’s mother vanishes in a heavenly shaft of light. Sera and David survive, but their troubles are just beginning. Yellowstone has erupted, releasing enough ash to bring about a volcanic winter. Seattle is gone, dropped into the ocean. The people of Roslyn are left to fend for themselves. Sera’s grandfather is the town sheriff but not even he can keep order with food running out. Factions emerge. The Spathi, one group, features religious fanatics. The Skaggs, another, wants to cull the weak and the sick. As this would include David—who was born with dwarfism—Sera is forced to cast aside her abhorrence of guns. Instead, she finds a place in her grandfather’s citizen army, fighting both for survival and to retain her humanity. While David is being prickly, Sera has developed feelings for Micah Abrams, a former school bully who once made her brother’s life miserable. Where do her allegiances lie? And when humanitarian aid comes by way of a foreign military power, will it be the town’s salvation or the beginning of something far worse? In this gritty tale, Leonhard writes in the first person, past tense and paints a bleak picture of how even a small, tight-knit community might fall apart at the end of days. The nature of the catastrophe—a genuine scientific possibility rather than zombies or the like—adds a sobering dose of realism, as does the author’s commitment to having characters stay true to their natures. The plot is confrontational; the prose and dialogue are practical, as befits the story being told. Events unfold with a sense of inevitability (though with a few surprises), gaining momentum as they play out. Unfortunately, this first volume of a trilogy lacks a self-contained ending. Thus, readers will be left unsatisfied and a bit puzzled by the religious motif that comes increasingly to the fore.

A grim and unrelenting tale in the best traditions of the dystopian genre.

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9993922-3-2

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Kc Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.


From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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Very smart and very entertaining.

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All over the world, teenage girls develop the ability to send an electric charge from the tips of their fingers.

It might be a little jolt, as thrilling as it is frightening. It might be powerful enough to leave lightning-bolt traceries on the skin of people the girls touch. It might be deadly. And, soon, the girls learn that they can awaken this new—or dormant?—ability in older women, too. Needless to say, there are those who are alarmed by this development. There are efforts to segregate and protect boys, laws to ensure that women who possess this ability are banned from positions of authority. Girls are accused of witchcraft. Women are murdered. But, ultimately, there’s no stopping these women and girls once they have the power to kill with a touch. Framed as a historical novel written in the far future—long after rule by women has been established as normal and, indeed, natural—this is an inventive, thought-provoking work of science fiction that has already won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in Britain. Alderman (The Liars’ Gospel, 2013, etc.) chronicles the early days of matriarchy’s rise through the experiences of four characters. Tunde is a young man studying to be a journalist who happens to capture one of the first recordings of a girl using the power; the video goes viral, and he devotes himself to capturing history in the making. After Margot’s daughter teaches her to use the power, Margot has to hide it if she wants to protect her political career. Allie takes refuge in a convent after running away from her latest foster home, and it’s here that she begins to understand how newly powerful young women might use—and transform—religious traditions. Roxy is the illegitimate daughter of a gangster; like Allie, she revels in strength after a lifetime of knowing the cost of weakness. Both the main story and the frame narrative ask interesting questions about gender, but this isn’t a dry philosophical exercise. It’s fast-paced, thrilling, and even funny.

Very smart and very entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-54761-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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