While well-meaning, this does little to offer any compelling alternative to the overpublished genre of Anglophone narratives...

TROUBLE TOMORROW

Based on true events, a story about the powerful journey of resilience, courage, and hope of young Obulejo, striving to escape war-torn Sudan and heal from the wounds of societal prejudice.

Set during the time of the second Sudanese civil war, the story immediately throws readers into the fracas as Obulejo is roughly woken to the sound of guns. Before the first chapter ends, readers understand that Obulejo and his family are on the run for their lives, fleeing the generic enemy Rebels, a fictional proxy of Sudan’s People’s Revolutionary Army. The prospect of Obulejo’s becoming a child soldier for the Rebels looms large. No matter how dangerous and terrifying the road is ahead, he must find his way out, and that takes him through neighboring Uganda and Kenya. This account shares roots with the story of co-author Enadio, a Ma’di man who spent years in refugee camps before finding sanctuary status in Tasmania. Unfortunately, the novel takes on many of the oft-criticized tropes of narratives of African conflict. Horrendous violence is ever threatening; a benevolent, religious NGO works to help the Sudanese, mired in cycles of tribal violence, learn peaceful ways. This is in no way to discount Enadio’s lived experience, but readers introduced to the long-standing Sudanese conflict solely through this text will not find needed context and complexity.

While well-meaning, this does little to offer any compelling alternative to the overpublished genre of Anglophone narratives of African conflict written from outside the continent. (Historical fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-76029-146-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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