Review

Book Reviews: Clines, Rothfuss, and Hearne

I’m falling behind in my book reviewing, so I’m going to cram a few together in one blog post.

Ex-Heroes CoverBook the first: Ex-Heroes [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Peter Clines. This is basically a post-apocalyptic zombie book with superheroes, which is an interesting premise. As powerful as the heroes are, they’re not invulnerable, and they’re vastly outnumbered. They’ve established a stronghold called The Mount, in the ruins of Hollywood, where they scavenge for supplies and do their best to protect their citizens from the exes (ex-humans), as well as a street gang that’s discovered some powers of their own.

Clines hits a lot of the expected beats for a zombie story, including flashbacks to the beginning of the disaster, various scenes of humans being trapped by exes, and the terror of the endless sea of undead at the gates. I appreciated that there was at least one twist that I didn’t see coming. (And it has a blurb from Nathan Fillion, which is both cool and incredibly envy-making.)

I’d recommend this one to fans of zombies and Watchmen.

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The Slow Regard of Silent Things - CoverBook the second: The Slow Regard of Silent Things [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Patrick Rothfuss. Pat writes an interesting introduction to this novella (novelette?), in which he warns people, “You might not want to buy this book … it doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do.”

More than anything, this struck me as a character study. Auri is a secondary character in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. In this book, we follow a week in Auri’s life.

Depending on how you read it, there isn’t a lot happening in this book. Auri lives beneath the university, a world of empty caves and tunnels and pipes and ponds and abandoned rooms. In some respects, she reminds me a bit of Luna Lovegood, a character who sees the world in a very different and odd way. But in Auri’s case, you get hints of her past, of someone who was broken and rebuilt herself and her world.

If you’re looking for a strong plot, or for a story that has an impact on the greater world, you should probably skip this one. Auri spends her days exploring, finding lost objects and putting them in their proper places, exploring different rooms, and searching for the right gift for him.

The writing is gorgeous, and I was fascinated by Auri’s character, who seems to walk a very thin line between beauty and crippling OCD. My only complaint is that I wish she wasn’t so fixated on him (Kvothe, from Rothfuss’ novels). I understand that this is in keeping with the books, but it frustrates me to read such a beautifully written woman whose existence revolves around a guy. I’ve just been reading too much of that sort of thing lately.

That said, it’s a beautifully written story, though it won’t work for everyone. It inspired me to try some new things with my own writing and characters.

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Hounded - CoverBook the third: Hounded [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Kevin Hearne.

This is book one of Hearne’s popular Iron Druid chronicles, and I can see why he’s done so well with it. It’s page-turning fun, with a 2000+ year old druid called Atticus O’Sullvain living in Arizona with a delightful Irish wolfhound. For a long time, he’s been hiding from a very angry god who wants a sword Atticus stole centuries ago.

Lots of action, a good helping of snark, and entertaining, larger-than-life characters, from the werewolf and vampire legal team to the possessed bartender to the Irish widow Atticus hangs out with, swapping Irish tales.

There’s also a bit of hetero-male wish-fulfillment going on, with several beautiful and powerful women who all want to sleep with Atticus. On the other hand, Hearne presents a range of female characters, all with their own strengths.

In sum, a fun and entertaining read.

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So, that’s some of my recent reading. Any of these three strike you as interesting? Or if you’ve read them, feel free to share your thoughts.

Zero Sum Game, by SL Huang

I very rarely read books electronically. I know, I know … but I don’t own an e-reader, and I spend way too much time staring at screens already. But I was stuck on the plane Sunday evening with nothing to read, so I pulled up my copy of Zero Sum Game [Amazon | B&N | Kobo], by SL Huang.

I finished it two days later.

Here’s the official description:

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good.

The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight. She can take any job for the right price and shoot anyone who gets in her way.

As far as she knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower … but then Cas discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Someone who’s already warped Cas’s thoughts once before, with her none the wiser.

Cas should run. Going up against a psychic with a god complex isn’t exactly a rational move, and saving the world from a power-hungry telepath isn’t her responsibility. But she isn’t about to let anyone get away with violating her brain — and besides, she’s got a small arsenal and some deadly mathematics on her side. There’s only one problem…

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

This is a fast-paced thriller with lots of action and fighting and a diverse cast and secret organizations and subterfuge and general sneakiness and ass-kicking. Cas is cold and efficient, but with just enough humanity to keep her somewhat sympathetic. Her two companions bookend her nature quite well: Rio is basically a serial killer channeling his violence toward the bad guys, while PI Arthur is the heart and morality of the group. The conflict between them is very well done, particularly Arthur’s horror when he realizes who Cas’ friend is.

I’m also quite fond of computer guru Chester, a wheelchair-using geek who reminds me of Oracle. (With the caveat that I haven’t read Oracle in the comics; I’m just familiar with her character from talking to my fellow geeks.)

The overall conflict is perhaps familiar, but still engaging: a group with mental superpowers is manipulating the world to make it better, even if that means brainwashing and killing those who get in the way. It presents some good ethical dilemmas, since the antagonists have set things up in such a way that hurting them could actually help other villains.

The one problem I kept stumbling over was Cas’ powers. I can buy that she’s a math supergenius, but instinctively seeing and understanding the math of the world around you is one thing. Being able to apply that math to put every bullet exactly where you want, to hit a kid with a tennis ball after three ricochets, to weave a motorcycle through traffic at insane speeds, these things kept snapping my suspension of disbelief. The physical aspect is a whole other superpowered skillset, one that’s never mentioned.

On the other hand, her superpower is math. How cool is that?

We do get hints about Cas’ backstory toward the end, but we’ll have to wait until at least book two for the details. Overall, the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped, but again, I suspect that’s because Huang is setting the groundwork for future books.

Nitpicks aside, I devoured this book, and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel, Half Life, which should be out in January.

Legend of Korra 4×1: After All These Years

Legend of Korra
4×1: After All These Years

Full episodes available at Nick.com.

Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): In the three years after the Insurrection of the Red Lotus, Republic City has come to terms with the spirits living in the metropolis, Kuvira and Baatar Jr., along with their supporters, have traveled the Earth Kingdom in an attempt to reunite it under her militaristic rule, and the Air Nation assists there where needed. By 174 AG, Asami Sato helped modernize Central City Station and Prince Wu is groomed to ascend the vacant Earth Kingdom throne with Mako momentarily serving as his bodyguard. Meanwhile, Kai and Opal stop a robbery in the State of Yi, though are unable to restore the town’s supply lines, leaving the reluctant governor no other choice than to agree to Kuvira’s terms for help and hand over the town to her command. Korra was set to reunite with Team Avatar in Republic City, but has been traveling alone for the past six months, making a rough living with earthbender cage fighting while hiding her identity as the Avatar. More

The Tribe Series by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ambelin Kwaymullina was the other Guest of Honor at Continuum earlier this year. She’s a delightful, intelligent, and all-around wonderful human being. Ambelin is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator from the Palyku people, and is the author of a number of award-winning picture books as well as a YA dystopian series.

She was kind enough to give my daughter the first book in that series as a gift. I picked up the second at the convention. Having read them both, I am now waiting Very Impatiently for the third and final book to come out!

Book one is The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. Book two is The Disappearance of Ember Crow, and doesn’t appear to be out in the U.S. yet. I’m not seeing it from Book Depository, either. Grumble.

Here’s the description in the author’s own words:

The Tribe is a three-book dystopian series set on a future earth where the world was ripped apart by an environmental cataclysm known as ‘the Reckoning’. The survivors of the Reckoning live in an ecotopia where they strive to protect the Balance of the world, the inherent harmony between all life. But anyone born with an ability – Firestarters who control fire, Rumblers who can cause quakes, Boomers who make things explode – is viewed as a threat to the Balance. Any child or teenager found to have such a power is labeled an ‘Illegal’ and locked away in detention centres by the government.

Except for the ones who run.

Sixteen year old Ashala Wolf leads a band of rebels who she names her Tribe. Sheltered by the mighty tuart trees of the Firstwood and the legendary saurs who inhabit the grasslands at the forest’s edge, the Tribe has been left alone – until now. A new detention centre is being built near the forest, and when The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf begins, Ashala has been captured by the government and is on her way to interrogation…

I loved these books.

Dystopia is popular these days, as is dark, gritty, often hopeless fiction. While these books certainly have a dark and dystopic setup, there’s also hope and joy and life and love. You read the books and you don’t walk away thinking, “Well, the world sucks, and everything is hopeless.” You walk away thinking, “Humanity sure screws things up sometimes, but we will survive, and we will make things better in the end.”

The characters are wonderful. Heroes and villains, humans and [spoilers]. There’s such a range of powers and personalities, and it all just works. I particularly like that we see a similar range in the government and elsewhere. There are no monolithic blocks of good or evil people. You get a sense of the larger struggle playing out throughout the world.

You wouldn’t think a book about an interrogation would be such a page-turner, but I lost several nights’ sleep to these books.

I did feel like book two stumbled a little at the beginning. When Disappearance begins, Ashala has retreated from the Tribe after accidentally injuring someone she cares about with her power. This part didn’t quite work for me, but that might be because I’m 40 years old, and I forget that Ashala Wolf and the rest of the Tribe are still kids. Regardless, once we moved past that part, the story once again sucked me in and wouldn’t let go.

Book two expands the scope and the worldbuilding in wonderful and completely unexpected-but-consistent ways. It’s a book about love and despair and history and family and religion and hope and evil and so much more.

So here’s the deal:

  • You need to go pick up book one and read it.
  • Candlewick Press needs to hurry up and release book two so I can push all of my U.S. readers to get it.
  • Ambelin Kwaymullina needs to magically make book three be out now so I can read it and see how everything comes together.

Any questions?

Radiant, by Karina Sumner-Smith

Radiant cover artI was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy of Karina Sumner Smith‘s debut fantasy novel Radiant [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], which comes out on September 23. It’s a dystopian future fantasy, billed as book one of the Towers trilogy.

From the publisher’s description:

Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.

The central premise made me think of Ursula K. LeGuin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” You have the same horrifying choice: the Towers can create a utopian existence, but only by horrifically enslaving and using their Radiants. We meet the Radiant, Shai, and see first her fear and pain, but as the story progresses, we watch her realize that if she does choose to stay away, she’ll be dooming her home Tower. It’s a great setup for the book.

Xhea doesn’t know a lot of this at first. She just knows she’s been hired to deal with a tethered ghost (Shai). It’s how she earns a little extra money and a hit of magic, which acts very much like a drug for Xhea. The summary talks about how Xhea’s experiences awaken a new, dangerous magic within her, but I think what’s even more powerful is the friendship and loyalty Shai awakens. Xhea has grown up in the dystopian ruins on the ground beneath the floating towers. Shai has grown up a tool of her society, little more than a glorified super-battery. Neither of them have much experience trusting others, nor reasons to do so. Which makes the relationship that develops between them that much more powerful. It feels like a well-written love story without the romance, if that makes sense. That relationship is great, and was for me the most touching and engrossing part of the book.

The secondary characters were well done too, often hard-edged and worn down by their broken society, but you still see glimpses of humanity and kindness and more.

There were some times when it felt a little bumpy — description that didn’t quite come together to create a clear picture in my mind, or scenes were the pacing felt a little off. All of which is pretty standard for a first novel, and none of it bumped me out of the story or diminished my enjoyment.

While this is book one of a trilogy, Radiant is relatively self-contained, coming to a satisfying ending while leaving some of the bigger, societal conflicts for the next books. I just hope Xhea has an easier time of it in the next one, because that girl ends up on the receiving end of more than her share of breaks and bruises.

You can check out the first chapter on Sumner-Smith’s website.

Stranger, by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

Three years ago, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith went public with a post about a post-apocalypic YA novel they had written together. During the submission process, they received a response from an agent who offered to represent the book, “on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.”

They refused.

Their post led to a great deal of discussion about the need for gay characters in YA literature. The agency in question also posted a rebuttal.

Stranger - CoverSo that’s the backstory. The book eventually sold to Viking Juvenile, with a publication date of November 2014. I’m happy to have gotten my hands on an advance copy :-)

Stranger [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] definitely has a western feel to it, as noted in the publisher’s summary:

Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, “the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. “Las Anclas” now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.

I liked this one. There’s a lot of imaginative worldbuilding going on, particularly around the different powers people develop and the new forms of wildlife. The crystalline trees are awesome and terrifying. Also: telekinetic squirrels. They don’t get a lot of page-time, but just the fact that there are telekinetic squirrels makes me happy.

Smith and Brown rotate chapters through five (I think) different PoV characters, which was a little tricky to keep track of in the beginning, but I think it worked well. I’m less thrilled about the different font used for each PoV, but since I was reading an ARC, I’m not sure the publisher will keep that quirk in the final version. It might not bother you, but it distracted me.

There’s a lot going on here. You’ve got the eponymous stranger Ross Juarez, a loner with a bit of PTSD who finds a sense of community for the first time in his life … but there are those who don’t want him around, and others who just want to use him. There’s the larger conflict with a power-hungry king who’s been conquering neighboring towns. There are multiple romances. There’s internal political struggles between a family trying to create their own dynasty as leaders of Las Anclas and the changed sheriff who messed up their plans.

There’s also an ongoing story about discrimination and prejudice. You have open hostility and fear, and some of that fear is almost understandable, given the damage changes can do when people can’t — or don’t — control them. Poor Ross gets fear and suspicion from both barrels, as a stranger and someone with a suspected change.

I’m impressed by how well the multiple relationships, stories, and characters all come together. It did feel like there were some loose ends when I finished, and I’m hopeful those will be addressed in future books. But Stranger provides enough closure that I didn’t feel cheated. It’s a good ending, one that makes me want to pick up book two.

Oh, and yes, there are several non-straight couples in the book, and they’re treated with the same respect and variety as the straight couples. Surprisingly enough, I did not burst into flames, nor did my own heterosexual marriage immediately crash and burn. Go figure.

ETA: I’m told there will be a sequel, and it’s called Hostage, and it’s already written!

Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta

Memory of Water - CoverWhile at Detcon1, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the award-winning debut novel Memory of Water [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], by Emmi Itäranta. This came from Crystal Huff, who has been pushing the 2017 Helsinki Worldcon bid. Itäranta is a Finnish author, and as I understand it, she wrote the book in both Finnish and in English, and it’s been published in both languages. Speaking as an author, let me tell you, that’s pretty badass.

Here’s the publisher’s summary:

In the far north of the Scandinavian Union, now occupied by the power state of New Qian, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio studies to become a tea master like her father. It is a position that holds great responsibility and a dangerous secret. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that once provided water for her whole village. When Noria’s father dies, the secret of the spring reaches the new military commander … and the power of the army is vast indeed. But the precious water reserve is not the only forbidden knowledge Noria possesses, and resistance is a fine line.

Threatened with imprisonment, and with her life at stake, Noria must make an excruciating, dangerous choice between knowledge and freedom.

This book was at times powerful and beautiful and tragic and depressing and triumphant. There’s not a great deal of action. The pace is almost leisurely at times, even as the tension ratchets every higher. Day by day Noira goes about her business, watching helplessly as the military imprison and execute others in the village for water crimes. The waiting builds suspense and fear far  more effectively than any series of graphic action or violence would have. There’s also the contrast between the horrors Noira witnesses and the beauty of Itäranta’s writing.

And then there’s the worldbuilding. The book is set in a post-apocalyptic Finland. Rising sea levels and other environmental catastrophes have eliminated most sources of fresh water and a serious, if uneven, regression in technology. We never get the full details about what happened, because Noria — like most people — doesn’t know the truth. She knows only the stories she’s been taught. But over the course of the book, she uncovers bits and pieces…

I’m sure that aspect of the book will come across as preachy to some, and there’s certainly a message here about waste and overconsumption and the environment. But given that we don’t even know the full details of what happened, it felt like a reasonable example of “If this goes on…” to me.

There’s also beauty here. The way Noria contemplates every detail of the tea ceremony, and the ideas and philosophy behind it. I don’t know enough to say whether or not the author’s description is accurate, only that it was beautifully written. There’s love as well. Noria’s relationship with her friend Sanja, who works as a plastic smith (digging up and repairing old plastic for the village) is a powerful source of conflict. While they love one another, the secrets Noria guards and the struggles they both face just to survive would strain any relationship.

You can read a sample at the HarperCollins website. I also recommend checking out this Kirkus interview with Itäranta.

Wickedly Dangerous, by Deborah Blake

Wickedly Dangerous CoverWickedly Dangerous [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the first book in a new paranormal romance series from debut novelist Deborah Blake, coming out in five weeks on September 2, and it’s a lot of fun. From the publisher:

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…

As some of you might know, I have a bit of a weakness for updated/retold fairy and folk tales, so seeing Baba Yaga brought into the 21st century with an enchanted Airstream trailer (complete with a fridge that at any given time might contain anything from baked chicken to an endless supply of cherry pie), a dragon disguised as a big old pit bull, and a load of magic, was pretty much guaranteed to draw me in.

Barbara is a great protagonist, powerful and compassionate, but also a bit out-of-touch with her human side. That happens when you spend most of your life moving about, hanging out with the supernatural, and never building any long-term relationships with mortals. Her love interest, Liam, was engaging as well, being a small-town sheriff with a good heart and some romantic/emotional scars, dealing with the double-barreled crap gun of corrupt politics and a case he’s not equipped to understand. They make a good team, and Blake definitely creates some good chemistry between them.

I winced a little at the treatment of Liam’s ex-wife. She’s quite broken, and at times it felt like she was there more as a plot device than as an actual character.

It looks like each book in the series will follow a different Baba Yaga, which I like. It means the book has a satisfying ending and a full plot arc, but also promises more to come. The epilogue sets up the next book, Wickedly Wonderful, which comes out in December 2014 and tells the story of Beka Yancy.

Wickedly Dangerous is a fun, fast-paced read with heroic protagonists, a clear battle of Good vs. Evil, love and romance, a happy ending, and a lot of nice little details. And also a dog-dragon. (Yes, I really like Chudo-Yudo.)

More info is available on Blake’s website.

A Barricade in Hell, by Jaime Lee Moyer

A Barricade in Hell [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the sequel to Jaime Lee Moyer‘s debut novel Delia’s Shadow. I enjoyed the first book enough to blurb it. (And that blurb appears on the cover of the second book, which is awesome!) I’m happy to say Barricade was just as enjoyable.

From the publisher:

Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it’s 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.

That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war.  But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.

As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?

Like the first book, this one invites us into a believable San Francisco of the early 20th century, with characters who are likable, strong in their own ways, flawed, and at times both larger than life (or death) and all too vulnerable and human. Delia has been learning about her gifts, working with a more experienced and tremendously entertaining medium named Dora. Delia’s more comfortable with what she can do, and one of the payoffs of the book is seeing her partnership with her husband Gabe. They work as equals, and come across as a team, though each has their own partner. Both Delia and Gabe recognize their own limits and trust one another to do what they do best…though they both love and worry about the other.

There are a number of things going on in the book–the scope of the story is bigger, and there are more characters this time around, which makes sense for a second book, but resulted in a few speed bumps and loose ends along the way. But these are minor complaints, some of which I’m hoping will get developed in future books.

Evangelist Effie Fontaine made a good villain, for the most part. Smart, confident, powerful, and nasty. My only complaint was that certain developments near the end of the book felt like they undercut her character. I don’t know how to explain it without spoilers, and it certainly worked as an ending. I just found myself wishing the book had gone in a slightly different direction there.

Overall, these are good books, richly detailed, with enjoyable characters. I raced through them both, and look forward to the next. Recommended.

Above World, by Jenn Reese

I’d been wanting to read Jenn Reese‘s novel Above World [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] for a while now. Having now read and enjoyed it, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that this book has the wrong cover art.

It’s not that I think it’s a bad cover. It’s vivid and colorful and clear, and captures the mermaid Kampii nature of the protagonist. The cover also conveys that this is a middle grade novel. So far, so good. But the book is so much more. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic Earth with advanced tech and bioengineering and settlements of humans who have been modified for their environments and robot pets and more. I wish the cover showed more of those elements, because they’re pretty sweet.

Here’s the official summary:

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.

I liked this book a lot. It’s a fun read, with action and adventure and romance and great characters. I liked the relationship between Aluna and Hoku. I liked the backstory and the worldbuilding, and the larger-than-life villain. There’s just a lot going on in this book that made me say, “Oh, cool!”

There were a few elements that felt a bit too plot-convenient, where our characters encounter just the right character at just the right time. But that’s a minor complaint, and didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

This is the first book of a trilogy, and all three books are available, so you don’t have to wait.

You can read an excerpt of Above World at the Candlewick website.