Harry Potter and Star Wars tossed in a blender: it’s not particularly fresh or innovative, but it’s a passable enough...

RECRUITS

From the Recruits series , Vol. 1

Twins Dillon and Sean discover their childhood fantasy of an otherworldly train station is reality and their gateway to a new life in a galactic civilization.

The 17-year-old Raleigh-Durham white boys have been drawing the station for 10 years. When Col. Carver, a battle-scarred, brown-skinned new neighbor, shows them how to travel there using a magical force within themselves, the duo’s eager to pass his tests and train to use their powers. However, Earth’s a seldom-visited outpost planet in the Human Assembly; and the test administrator, a black man named Tirian, is set against their passing any tests. Although the boys are attacked twice by inimical forces, Carver and his superiors don’t believe the boys’ account of events because of what it means to interplanetary peace; they blame Tirian, who becomes a wanted man. Though the boys are much older and more powerful than the other students, they enter the school formerly administered by Tirian to train, prove their story, and clear their former adversary’s name. Though marketed as sci-fi, Locke’s trilogy-starter is more fantasy the likes of the early Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey. Science is supplanted by a magical faith/force (though the faith is not necessarily Christian). Though the plot is slow and logically muddy at times, the twins’ banter feels real, and these sparks carry the tale of good vs. evil to a successful, if a bit anticlimactic, close.

Harry Potter and Star Wars tossed in a blender: it’s not particularly fresh or innovative, but it’s a passable enough second-tier purchase. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8007-2789-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Revell

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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