Tag Archives: action

Defy the Stars – another stellar YA SciFi read 

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Defy the Stars – another stellar YA SciFi read 

Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars is another amazing addition to the YA SciFi genre.  If you enjoyed Ami Kauffman’s Illuminae, you definitely want to give this book a look.  I gave this book my rare five star rating because it grabbed my imagination and high jacked my evening from the first chapter.


Goodreads Summary

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

My Thoughts

What a great read!  Plenty of action and suspense kept me glued to this one for a straight read through.  There is attention and detail given to the building of characters and a fascinating new world.  I cared about these characters and the conflicts that drove them.  I liked the fact that the relationship between the main characters is believable despite the seeming impossibility of feelings and AI. It is also a timely read – Westworld has us questioning what it means to be a human while current political debates have us thinking about isolationism, terrorism, and the environment.  This book does a great job of giving readers room to consider these issues in a thoughtful way without ruining the story for those who just want a good escape read.  I’m definitely adding it to my high school classroom library wishlist, and I have already seen it in our high school library (but it won’t be there for long once I start talking it up).  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but it will appeal to adult readers of YA as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Shadow Run – Her Ship. His Plan. Their Survival

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Shadow Run – Her Ship. His Plan. Their Survival

When you put the idea out there that a book is for fans of Firefly and Dune, there is going to be a lot of expectation and some skepticism.  I have never gotten through Dune – I tried, but I thought it was boring.  I do, however, drop everything when Firefly or Serenity show up on the TV.  Don’t expect a Captain Tightpants, but it is pretty shiny.  I gave Shadow Run 4 stars.


Goodreads Summary

They can steal her home. They can attack her ship. But they cannot touch her crew.

Nev just started as the cargo hauler on the starship Kaitan Heritage. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person on Alaxak to have her own ship. She’s brassy and bold, and she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is a rust bucket.

As for Nev, he’s handsome and impetuous—and Qole and the crew have no idea that he’s actually a prince in hiding. He thinks Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, but when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, he resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary. Word of Nev’s presence on board spreads quickly to other ships, however. Soon a rival royal family is after Qole, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive. Before he knows it, Nev’s mission to manipulate her becomes one to save her.

To survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. Nev may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power of her own—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

My Thoughts

Shadow Run is a  great read from beginning to end. I loved the action, which felt pretty non-stop.  It is surprising how much character development actually made it into the story considering that the crisis mode is on continually.  I will say I didn’t connect with the female narrator until the second half of the book, but the male narrator is a pretty solid anchor until that point.  Fans of Firefly will find the tightknit crew and the complete inability to do anything the easy way very satisfying.  Themes of honesty, integrity, and finding your real home add nice depth to the adventure.  I’m definitely adding it to my high school classroom library and recommending it to fans of Amie Kaufman’s Illuminae, Tessa Elwood’s Inherit the Stars,  and other fast-paced action reads.  Language and situations are suitable for grades 8+, but adult readers of YA will find it enjoyable as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you liked Red Rising, give Jenny Moyer’s Flashfall a look

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If you liked Red Rising, give Jenny Moyer’s Flashfall a look

Jenny Moyer’s Flashfall had a premise that reminded me of Red Rising, one of my favorite books, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I definitely got vibes of both Red Rising and The Hunger Games from the opening scenes and the initial situation, but I’m also glad to say that this story really did have something new to offer fans.  There is all the rebellion, action, and adventure I crave, but there is also a fresh storyline with some unexpected developments.  I gave Flashfall four stars, but the more impressive endorsement is that I have had a hard time keeping it in my classroom library.  I recommended it to one kid, and I haven’t seen it on the shelf since – word of mouth has kept it in high demand.  I’m really surprised there hasn’t been bigger buzz about this one, so if you missed it when it published in November, it is worth your time to check it out.

 

Goodreads Summary

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it. 

My Thoughts

Orion is a strong female protagonist with an admirable goal and a strong protective drive for the people she loves. She is easy to empathize with, and she is flawed enough to be believable.  The relationships in the story are engaging, and the romance is developed slowly enough to feel right.  I think the biggest draw for readers, though, will be the fast pace of the story – the action is pretty constant and the threat is real.  While I feel like the overarching world building is a bit fuzzy – I never quite understood exactly why Orion and her family were being used to mine this particular substance, or even where or when the story was set – I was still quite happy to just enjoy the story.  I will definitely be on the lookout for the sequel.  Fans of dystopia won’t be disappointed.    Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but adult readers of YA can enjoy it as well. 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

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Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

Look, I saw the cover for Children of Icarus and read the cryptic summary and I seriously thought about passing on it.  What a mistake that would have been!  This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.  I found myself racing through this compelling book, and I ended it questioning how far I would go to get my hands on the second.  The answer would shock you, unless you’ve read it, too.  Reviews have been mixed, but it is interesting to note that even those who didn’t love it acknowledged that it would appeal to fans of the big dystopian hits like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.  I gave it five stars, and it will be the first book I purchase for my classroom library this year.

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Goodreads Summary

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

My Thoughts

Look, that summary doesn’t give you much.  So . . . In a future society, Icarus is worshipped.  Special children between the ages of ten and sixteen are chosen on the day Icarus fell to go into the labyrinth of Icarus and to ascend as angels.  Except, the labyrinth is definitely not a holy place, and all those kids?  Well, some of them might be angels, but it had nothing to do with Icarus and a lot to do with the nasty truth about what really happens in the labyrinth.

While it reminded me in part of The Maze Runner (mysterious labyrinth with horrifying depths) and it reminded me a bit of Ann Aguire’s Enclave (a primitive society born operating in confusion and fear), it was something all its own and that something was rich and engaging.  The narrator is not the fierce warrior woman, as a matter of fact, she is the forgettable sidekick, and that leaves a lot of room for growth.  The mystery and palpable danger of her situation make it hard to leave her side, even when you need a bathroom break.  The twist at the end left me stunned, and the questions I’m still pondering have me itching to talk about it to anyone who will listen.  I can’t wait to share it with my high school readers.  The fast-paced action and the unique brand of mystery make for a winning combination that I know my students will embrace.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Shadow Queen – You haven’t seen a Snow White like this

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The Shadow Queen – You haven’t seen a Snow White like this

This reimagining of Snow White added a few important twists to the story that I really felt brought new life to a tired fairy tale.  There are no dwarves. Thankfully. There is a huntsman, but he has a lot more riding on capturing the wayward princess than he ever has before.  There is magic – big magic – tied to land and intentions and heart.  And this pretty princess with skin as white as snow?  Well, she doesn’t need a rescue.  She is a hardcore warrior in her own right, and this version of the story makes it clear that her courage is the real thing that packs a punch and not some idealized virtue that sounds nice in a eulogy.

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Goodreads Summary

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My Thoughts

I have to admit that I’m almost done with fairy tale revisions, and I had to take a break before starting over and giving this book my real attention.  I’m glad I took that break.  This book does deserve to be savored rather than devoured simply because the relationships are complex, the dangers feel real, and just when you want to cover your eyes or slam the book closed, another turn of events keeps you in the game.  Lorelai, the protagonist, is easy to connect with, and a strong female protagonist I believe my high school readers will admire and enjoy.  There is a bit of romance, and the author nicely sidesteps the dreaded insta-love by providing a deeper connection.  I think most readers will be quite pleased with their relationship and the relationships throughout this book.  It reminded me of Princess of Thorns a bit, and if you enjoyed that book, I feel sure this one will grab you as well.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list and recommending it to all my readers who like their ladies tough and true.  Language and situations are appropriate for middle and high school readers, but adult readers will enjoy it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The 13th Continuum

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The 13th Continuum

The 13th Continuum is another YA dystopian, meaning it didn’t add much to the genre.  Weak characters and a lack of logic made for a rather dull read.  Die hard dystopian devotees will still probably find it hard to pass up, but if you are over it, you won’t miss much here.  As usual, there are other reviewers who thought it topped sliced bread, but I gave it three stars.

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Goodreads Summary

One thousand years after a cataclysmic event leaves humanity on the brink of extinction, the survivors take refuge in continuums designed to sustain the human race until repopulation of Earth becomes possible. Against this backdrop, a group of young friends in the underwater Thirteenth Continuum dream about life outside their totalitarian existence, an idea that has been outlawed for centuries. When a shocking discovery turns the dream into a reality, they must decide if they will risk their own extinction to experience something no one has for generations, the Surface.

My Thoughts

While I liked the idea of this book, I didn’t actually like the book. First, it didn’t feel polished. In particular, the pacing seemed off. I’m not sure if it was the amount of detail that was included in the social structure of the world or if it was really the result of trying to establish relationships between characters, but the fallout was that it slowed the story to the point that I began to lose interest. I thought it was smart for the author to incorporate the second colony because the appearance of Aero recaptured my interest for a while.

Second, the plot was problematic for me. I was never really clear about what motivated Aero’s colony, so I struggled to find the logic in the conflict.

Finally, I never really connected with any of the characters. Myra was an adequate character, but she didn’t really have any sparkle or wit about her. I liked her dedication to her family, but she was bland. Aero was a little more interesting because he was contemplating the negatives in his society but he was also able to show the advantages he felt he gained from the system. I found that much more intriguing than a character placed in an obviously flawed society. The relationship between these two was way too accelerated and I didn’t understand the logic behind that. Overall, this just wasn’t a book I connected with, and I don’t think it is engaging enough to keep my high school students interested, though the premise will certainly catch their attention. Language and situations are appropriate for middle and high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

 

A World of Ash – Justin Woolley’s zombies, crazed nuns, and valiant underdog do it all over again

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A World of Ash – Justin Woolley’s zombies, crazed nuns, and valiant underdog do it all over again

If you’ve read the first two books in Justin Woolley’s The Territory series, you won’t want to miss A World of Ash.  The final book in the trilogy is exactly the conclusion I wanted for this series.  If you haven’t read this engaging and endearing series, you have missed out on a quest just as good as the one that stupid Potter boy went on, and this one has zombies.  Start with A Town Called Dust, and proceed with glee.

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Goodreads Summary

Trapped in a city no one knows exists, Squid lies dying as Nim fights for their lives. With every minute, their hope of getting the vaccine back to civilization is fading. From the brink of death and the edge of the world, Squid must once again conquer dangers even more sinister than the undead – the future of humankind depends on it.

But Squid’s efforts will be wasted if Lynn cannot keep the people of Alice safe until he returns, and Lynn is now a hostage of the Holy Order. Forced to face punishment at the hands of the High Priestess, Lynn is at the mercy of the mad cult, as beyond the wall the undead horde continues its relentless approach.

Caught between madness and mindlessness, the odds are stacked against Squid and Lynn. Will they triumph or do they already walk in a world of ash?

My Thoughts

This book really does close the circle on Squid’s evolution, but it does so in way that stays true to the character I have come to love.  While Squid comes into his own, many of the characters were in need of some redemption after book two – I’m pointing at you, Lynn – and this book is really about redemption for this society and for this group of people.  While the character development is important to me, many readers will be looking to see if this installment is up to the action standards we have come to expect.  Yes.  There are several sequences of action that are just as exciting as the battle in Dust, and this time, readers don’t have to wait forever to get there.  Things pick up right where A City Called Smoke left off – you know, at that almost unbearable cliffhanger! Lots of zombies, lots of guns, and a surprising revelation about the cure that Squid has been seeking all happen in just the first chapters.  I did feel like the author chose to skirt a big conflict that he set up in ACCS, and some fans will be disappointed by that because, well, you know people – can’t please everyone.  Glad it pleased me, though.  Overall, I’m really satisfied by this series, and I think other fans will be as well.  Language and situations and interest levels are appropriate for middle school and high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Phillip Reeve’s newest YA is Railhead and it is so worth your time

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Phillip Reeve’s newest YA is Railhead and it is so worth your time

Captivating and unexpected, Railhead is SciFi for hard core fans of the genre and for those who wouldn’t touch SciFi with a ten foot pole.  It is a five star read that I devoured in a few hours.

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Goodreads Summary

The Great Network is an ancient web of routes and gates, where sentient trains can take you anywhere in the galaxy in the blink of an eye. Zen Starling is a nobody. A petty thief from the filthy streets of Thunder City who aimlessly rides the rails of the Network. So when the mysterious stranger Raven offers Zen a chance to escape the squalor of the city and live the rest of his days in luxury, Zen can’t believe his luck. All he has to do is steal one small box from the Emperor’s train with the help of Nova, an android girl. But the Great Network is a hazardous mess of twists and turns, and that little box just might bring everything in this galaxy — and the next — to the end of the line. The highly anticipated novel from Carnegie-medal-winning author Philip Reeve, Railhead is a fast, immersive, and heart-pounding ride perfect for any sci-fi fan. Step aboard — the universe is waiting.

*Warner Bros. has purchased the film rights to this book

My Thoughts

Railhead throws readers into a startling and intriguing world from page one, and the wonders don’t stop until the end.  The action is fast-paced, the concept is novel and intriguing, and I didn’t want to put it down.  The real heart and soul of the book, though, is the cast of characters.  From the sentient trains, to the AI and humans who populate this world, this believable mix of man and machine worked.  I adored the spaces they navigated as well.  It was an eclectic mix of old world grandeur and industrial wasteland, a setting that is easy to picture despite the fact that it is in the outer reaches of the universe.  That is part of the magic of this book – you don’t have to be a huge fan of trains or outer space, or even science fiction to really enjoy this book.  It is different but it isn’t so alien that it takes too much work.  If you like a good story with characters you can cheer for, this is something you can embrace.  You might, however, find that you do like trains, outer space, and science fiction by the time you get to the end.  I’m definitely adding this to my high school classroom library wishlist.  This book is appropriate for readers as young as middle school, but adult readers will enjoy it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

If you know me and my books at all, you know I cannot resist a time travel story, and there have been many of them to choose from this year.  While this wasn’t my favorite (that was Into the Dim if you were wondering), it was certainly the one that provoked the most thought.  Complex and thoughtful, I believe this book will have a wide appeal.

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Goodreads Summary

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.

My Thoughts

This book has a slow start despite the action the protagonist finds herself thrown into within the first few chapters.  It gradually picks up steam, and readers who stick with it long enough will find a very compelling adventure full of love, betrayal, and time travel to far flung reaches.  Etta and Nicholas are the major players in this story, and their relationship is complicated by a variety of surprising elements that make for suspense and uncertainty right up until the final moments of the book.  While Etta is the protagonist, I actually think readers will find Nicholas the more complex and intriguing character – his backstory is heartbreaking and well developed.  He adds some needed diversity to the YA literary scene, and his situation will inspire some thoughtful consideration.  He will also allow this book to be one that my high school guys can enjoy as much as my high school girls.

Etta is a less well drawn character.  Her motivation in the book is  a little at odds with the initial image readers are given of her relationship to her mother.  She does, however, find a lot of growth as a result of her experiences and she has a determination and loyalty that will play well with the female YA demographic.  While I didn’t feel an intense connection with her, I think others will.

The plot is one that takes a bit of unravelling.  Readers will have to invest a bit of time to get the payoff, but I think it is worth the effort.  At times the romantic relationship took a frustrating amount of time, and that slowed the action, but it does create a more complex story and I think most YA readers will appreciate the time dedicated to developing this sub-plot.  I do think a bit more time could be spent explaining the time traveling concept, but it is clear enough for readers who can suspend disbelief and just roll with it.  My impression is that this is a purposeful lack of detail, one that will come into play as the series evolves.  I say that because the story does end with a clear arrow pointing towards more books. While it isn’t a terrible cliff-hanger of a “resolution,” it does leave the reader with unresolved conflicts, and that irritates some people beyond reason.  I wasn’t outraged, but I will be anticipating the next book starting today.

Overall, I think fans of all ages and both genders will find something to enjoy in this book.  I’m certainly adding it to my classroom library wish list and recommending it to fans of time travel and action reads.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Siren’s Song is exactly the conclusion readers want from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy

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Siren’s Song is exactly the conclusion readers want from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy

If you like Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, I think you will enjoy Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy.  They have similar elements and similar feels, though they ultimately head in completely different directions.  The best part, though, is that Weber’s trilogy is finished (and each ebook only costs $5.99).  The final book, Siren’s Song, published this month, and I think it was the best of the three.  However, you have to read this series in order.  The first book is Storm Siren and the second is Siren’s Fury.   The third book, Siren’s Song, is exactly the ending that the Storm Siren trilogy needs.  If you have read the previous two books, it would be a big mistake to miss this resolution.

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Goodreads Summary

Nym and Draewulf prepare to face off in a battle destined to destroy more lives than it saves.

With the loss of Tulla still fresh in mind, Rasha’s fate unknown, and Lord Myles taken over by the dark ability, Nym and the few Bron soldiers rush to warn Cashlin’s queen. Only to discover it may already be too late for the monarch and her eerie kingdom. As the Luminescents are sifting through Nym’s past memories and the queen is reading into her future, Nym is given a choice of how to defeat Draewulf, but the cost may be more than she can bear. And even then there are no guarantees.

With that reality burrowing into her bones—along with the guilt of the lives she will sacrifice—Nym returns to her homeland of Faelen to raise an army of peasants through promises of freedom. But when the few friends she has left, along with the world and citizens she loves, are staring down the face of a monster and his undead army, will Nym summon every element her blood is capable of controlling . . . or surrender to a different strength—one of sacrifice?

Because in the end, death may be more merciful for them all.

My Thoughts

Fans of the series will be quite pleased with the mix of action, danger and thwarted romance.  Yes, I said thwarted romance – Bron is free of the Draewolf, but he could be a ticking time bomb, and Nym can’t really take the chance, especially since she is the final puzzle piece in the prophecy.  According to Bron, at least. Gah.  This is only one of many sacrifices Nym may be faced with making, and as the stakes get higher, it becomes apparent that she might have to sacrifice everything if she is going to give her people a chance at survival.  That threat is present and real all the way through this journey, and the suspense makes for a great read.   Seriously, the more questions the story answered, the more uncertain I became about the fate of Nym, her friends, and her world’s survival.  I enjoyed this series, and this final book is really the best of the three.  This series is engaging and the romance is compelling, but I love the fact that it doesn’t have any language or situations that compromise my ability to add it to my classroom library. It is appropriate for grades 7+, but adults will enjoy it as well.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.