Cruz Coronado is still feeling on edge after the attack on his life in series opener The Nebula Secret (2018) as the Explorer Academy sets off on the research vessel Orion for the next phase of its educational journey.
Before Cruz’s scientist mother’s mysterious death, she hid the clues to a secret formula with world-changing healing potential in a holo-journal. Cruz and his academy friend and roommate, Emmett Lu, keep the secret of the journal close even as they discover that someone aboard the Orion is trying to steal it. Lani Kealoha, Cruz’s childhood friend, video-calls Cruz and crew regularly from Hawaii, using her decoding skills to help decipher the journal’s holographic clues. While dodging his assassins, Cruz pursues his studies, leading Team Cousteau to Norway, where the author infuses cool, scientific facts about the endangered North Atlantic right whale and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault into the narrative. The educational component of this story takes readers outside of the book via a link to an interactive companion website. Like its predecessor, this book is chock-full of National Geographic adventure interlaced with techno-future gadgets the academy provides its diverse young students (cued by naming convention). However, the author basically follows the same storyline rubric as the first book, so if readers aren’t hooked by the science, there’s little else for them.
A formulaic second installment that takes readers around the globe but doesn’t push the story forward. (Science fiction. 10-14)