‘Supernova (Renegades 3)’ – Marissa Meyer

A fitting end to this superhero series, where we get a lot of what we expected but not everything is as straightforward as it seems.

Picking up after the events of book two, Nova is all too aware that it is only a matter of time before her double identity is revealed. While she is in love with Adrian and has come to respect the Renegades, the years preparing her have ensured she is hard to sway from her intended course of action. Determined to rescue Ace, Nova takes greater chances and there were times where I wondered if this was really the same girl we’d seen through the previous two books.

Regardless of our views on Nova’s behaviour, she is plunged into the thick of the action here. Some are determined to make her pay for her actions, but there are others prepared to look beyond what they’ve been told – who think there’s a chance of a different approach.

Nova is placed in some difficult circumstances here. Not everyone behaves honourably, and yet there’s support for Nova where we might not have foreseen it. If you’re in this for the action you won’t be disappointed, and there was a clear attempt to answer some of the questions we’ve had about these characters and their lives.

You need to know that not everyone survives. Everyone is changed, in some way. And there’s a wonderful reveal at the end – which we had been given little clues about – that hints there could be more to come.

 

‘Girls with Razor Hearts’ – Suzanne Young

Girls with Razor Hearts focuses on our group, led by Mena, after they leave their elite school, determined to bring down Innovations. We know they’re capable of extreme violence, but get the impression it’s something that happens as a consequence of the way they’re treated rather than an innate character trait.

The girls find an old student, and they are given help to enrol in a new high school as they attempt to bring down the company that made them by going after the investors.

The story focuses on their experiences in this everyday high school, and their reaction to the commonplace misogyny in evidence. We see boys being trained for their powerful roles, and the girls being primed for their role on the sidelines.

Things don’t quite go to plan. There’s always a sense of someone being just that one step ahead – which I presume sets us up well for part three. The girls are great in their love for and support of one another. They mean well, but it seems the odds are stacked against them which is a rather cynical message to convey.

 

‘The Last One’ – Alexandra Oliva

When I first agreed to buddy read this a while ago it sounded like a novel idea, experimenting with the concept of post-apocalyptic events and tying it in with the excitement surrounding social media. The idea of a group of reality TV contestants taking part in a survival show, and being unaware of the fact that the outside world they left was no more, sounded so extreme that I was imagining a thrilling read. However, recent world events and the issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic lent this read an eerie sense of foreboding. At times I had to steel myself to continue, gripped but not in a way I was necessarily enjoying.

At the beginning there were clues that things were going to change in ways we were not imagining. While we got to see all the characters and their interactions everything was tempered somewhat by the filter of our main character, Zoo.
I got rather frustrated by the presentation of the characters on occasion. The attempt to pigeon-hole people and force their actions to fit a preconceived notion of how they would be seen by others meant I felt a lot of events were written about in order to present a particular slant.

Where the story really picked up was once we followed Zoo through her time following her surviving whatever she had experienced. She emerges from the woods in a dazed state. She can’t see. When she meets young Brennan she is convinced he is merely part of the crew. All her experiences in her mind form part of the test she has agreed to.

Yes, a little more background to the scenario would have been good. Understanding how this occurred might have been helpful, but the isolation Zoo has experienced does mean the detachment and lack of information makes sense. A bleak ending may have been appropriate, but I actually felt heartened by the potentially hopeful resolution to this story.

Now, as Boris Johnson has just announced a lockdown in Britain with immediate effect this seems like an apt time to find something a little cheerier to dip into…

 

‘Firefight’ – Brandon Sanderson

Having now acquired the nickname of ‘Steelslayer’ David has got himself in position with the Reckoners and they are on the tail of another Epic. This time, they are heading to the former Manhattan – a hippy-like place that has been submerged by water – in order to fight the epic known as Regalia.

Unfortunately, David has to deal with the fact that he is in love with Megan, the epic known as Firefight, whom everybody else wants to kill because she murdered one of their own. His mentor, Prof, is also an epic and is clearly more than accustomed to using his powers when he needs to.

From the outset, it is evident that nobody is being entirely honest with anyone else. They do a bit of scouting and find another couple of lesser epics that they decide to try and take down in an attempt to draw out their primary target. David masters the art of using his jet-pack (for want of a better term) and the new characters lend a bit of an alternative view to events.

Throughout this I was intensely irritated – probably more than I should have been – by David’s repetitive comments about being bad at metaphors. The obvious error each time he did this really annoyed me and i was amazed that nobody had spotted it. Of course, we learn later, it was deliberate just to set up what is meant to be an endearing moment near the end. It wasn’t, but that’s just my opinion.

Once we got underway with the nitty-gritty of this it did get more interesting. It seemed unevenly paced though, although the final moments were definitely interesting. Not entirely sure what we’ll get to see of David in the next one – there’s more to this boy than we’ve been led to believe I’m sure of it – but it definitely looks like it’ll be worth checking out.

 

‘The Unadjusteds’ – Marisa Noelle

Now that’s what I call an exciting YA fantasy…full of action from start to finish, and with a great cast of characters.

In this world people are used to adjusting their appearance through the taking of nanites, an advanced technology that alters a person’s physical appearance and capabilities. Silver Melody’s parents invented the technology, but she has always been vehemently anti-nanite. Having watched close friends die, she is understandably nervous about the implications.

From the opening drama, which succinctly outlines Melody’s perspective, we’re plunged into a nightmare scenario. There are plans to force anyone ‘unadjusted’ to take nanites, so Melody and her father are forced to flee.

Unfortunately, there are people in power who are very keen to get their hands on Melody and her father.

What follows is a fraught battle. Melody is forced to develop skills she never knew she had, and rely on a very mixed group to help her.

While I enjoyed the ending, it left me with an awful lot of questions. I can’t help but wonder whether we haven’t heard the last of Melody Silver…

 

‘Skyward’ – Brandon Sanderson

‘Claim the Stars’ is what Spensa’s father tells her from early on. She recalls standing with him and seeing a gap in the clouds above them, and has always felt that she can hear things others can’t, but when he is shot down for deserting his squad life changes for Spensa and her family. Known as the daughter of a coward, Spensa has spent the last nine years facing people’s judgments of her.

Dreaming of becoming a pilot is the one thing that keeps Spensa focused.
In this futuristic world, humans live on a planet where they are regularly attacked by what they call Krell. Nobody knows what the Krell look like, or what they hope to achieve, but everyone fears their attacks. The heroes are the pilots who face them, and Spensa yearns to take on this role. However, because of her father’s actions Spensa seems to be destined to be cut off from this opportunity.

From the outset we see Spensa’s determination and stubbornness. She doesn’t back down, and her outspoken attitude is one of the things that seems destined to get her into trouble. However, these very traits also serve her in good stead.
For reasons that we come to see eventually, Spensa earns the opportunity to train as a pilot. She loves it, but with these new opportunities come the realisation that not everything is as clearcut as Spensa has always believed. Sometimes when you go rooting for answers to difficult questions you get them, and more than you were expecting.

While a substantial part of this book focuses on the day-to-day training of the pilots (which definitely had me reminiscing about Top Gun), there’s a lot of other things to keep you focused. I wanted to know what this ‘defect’ was that everyone kept talking about; I wanted to know more about the background to the people surrounding Spensa and their situation; I wanted to see Spensa grow as a character and I couldn’t wait to see just what was going on with M-Bot, the mysterious ship that Spensa finds and repairs. Some of these questions were answered, but not all.

I loved the pacing of this and the gradual heightening of tension as Spensa draws closer to coming to understand a little more of who she is. There was a good range of characters, and some unexpected humour.

All in all, this was a read that kept me focused from the start. I am now eager to read book two and learn a little more of this situation. Sometimes trying new things pays off…this was one such occasion.

‘Shatter City’ – Scott Westerfeld

Sometimes the second book in a series doesn’t really capture your imagination, though it sets things in place. I honestly didn’t feel that – as there’s a lot of distractions here to flesh characters out and start to develop the bigger picture.

Having willingly chosen to remain behind, Frey now has to convince everyone she is her sister. She puts in place a plan to marry Col and seems to be in support of her father. The menace coming from this guy cannot be underestimated – when he tells Frey the plans he has to maintain power over the city of Paz, it made my heart sink somewhat.

To cut a long story short, Frey finds herself outside the protection of all she’s loved as she tries to find her sister and save a city. There’s a lot of events that take place to keep you entertained, yet they all seem to fit within the bigger picture of what is to come.

Clear parts to this keep the story moving nicely, and there’s plenty of hints about characters/events that really have me quite excited about what’s to come.

 

‘This Cruel Design’ by Emily Suvada

Unashamedly delights in its scientific premise, and definitely pushes the boundaries of what we believe makes us human.

Cat has been left in a difficult situation. Able to genetically alter, and code in a way not known by many, she is seen as the answer to so many problems. Unfortunately these skills also make her a target for others with their own agenda.

This time round we follow Cat as she tries to sort out the virus threatening the world. Her attempts to spread the vaccine have failed, and now she has only three days before a major organisation threaten to eradicate people who pose a threat. Even though he has done awful things, Cat’s only hope seems to be to find Lachlan, but she may have to put her trust in others in order to manoeuvre into a stronger position.

This felt like a step towards something much bigger, but there were some quite surprising revelations that prevented this feeling like a filler. I was quite blown away by what we learned about Cat, and the plans for the future have me desperate for January 2020 when the final part of the trilogy is scheduled for release.

 

‘Impostors’ – Scott Westerfeld

I cannot believe that Uglies was released so long ago (in 2005), but in the first of this new series we are taken back to the world. This time round, though, Tally and her rebellion have led to some difficult circumstances and the leading families are struggling to keep order.

Impostors is a story that kept its hardest punch until the bitter end.

Frey and Rafi are identical twins, and their father is one of the ruling first family leaders. However, few people know about Frey. She is hidden away and trained to kill. Her one job is to take Rafi’s place at any potentially dangerous scenario.

Once we’ve been introduced to the pair, we learn that Frey has been asked to pretend to be Rafi as she visits another leading family. Though it seems a positive step, we learn she’s going as a hostage – and, too late, we learn that Frey’s position is in no way secure.

As soon as the plan kicks in, Frey is left to live on her wits in a dangerous bid for survival. She is forced to trust those who seemed determined to kill her. To what extent this will work, nobody is sure.

Following Frey as she pursues this dangerous adventure means everything happens at breakneck speed. Once she returns home, we see the depths to which her father has plunged…and the closing scene/ideas had me gasping. I cannot wait to see how this pans out.

 

‘The Toll’ – Neal Shusterman

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.
In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.

That certainly doesn’t tell you much, and having invested so much in the series you can’t help but be determined to find out how it resolves itself. Taken as a whole series, I can’t help but recommend this. Our final chapter slots certain scenarios into place and it fits together perfectly.

I don’t want to give spoilers, but we are set three years after the sinking of Endura. Certain characters have engineered themselves into new situations, while others are taking their time to find people. Everyone is desperate to know what the ultimate plan is, but the Thunderhead will talk only to the Toll, Grayson. A new world, a dead spot, has been created and Goddard goes to new lengths to try and control those around him. Eventually we see the chances for a new beginning, and are left with a very positive image that harks back to earlier times.

While I can see just how good the series is as a whole, I didn’t enjoy the experience of reading this as much as I’d hoped. I always felt a step behind as it wasn’t clear who was doing what, and for what reason. At times it felt longer than it needed to be, but the final section certainly pulled it together.