Monday, October 30, 2017

Ninth City Burning- J. Patrick Black

My Rating: 3 Stars

DescriptionFor fans of Ender's Game, Red Rising, and The Hunger Games comes an explosive, epic science fiction debut...

Cities vanished, gone in flashes of world-shattering destruction. An alien race had come to make Earth theirs, bringing a power so far beyond human technology it seemed like magic. It was nearly the end of the world--until we learned to seize the power, and use it to fight back.

The war has raged for five centuries. For a cadet like Jax, one of the few who can harness the enemy's universe-altering force, that means growing up in an elite military academy, training for battle at the front--and hoping he is ready. For Naomi, young nomad roaming the wilds of a ruined Earth, it means a daily fight for survival against the savage raiders who threaten her caravan.

When a new attack looms, these two fledgling warriors find their paths suddenly intertwined. Together with a gifted but reckless military commander, a factory worker drafted as cannon fodder, a wild and beautiful gunfighter, and a brilliant scientist with nothing to lose--they must find a way to turn back the coming invasion, or see their home finally and completely destroyed.

My Thoughts: Ninth City Burning is mostly a sum of all the novels it is toted as emulating. There are children who are integral to winning the war, yet they are not the only key players and are backed up by adults who will do whatever they need to to protect them. There are settlements that supply Ninth City while themselves living in ignorance and poverty, however this arrangement is out of perceived necessity rather than cruelty. And then there is science that is magic... and yet not.

Thelemity is a concept that is fun to read about and explore, particularly since the author spent so much effort to ensure that something that behaves so much like magic could be broken down into a science. Exploring the uses of this power through Rae's perspective is amusing in how relatable her struggle to learn its properties is. And Torro's perspective does a good job of tugging at heartstrings when he learns just what this war will cost him.

However, there were a number of other POV characters that could have been done without, and at times the explanations of thelemity drifted from showing to paragraphs of telling. The narrative opens with Jax, whose opening couple pages were hilarious despite the seriousness of the situation. However, he soon disappears from the forefront until much later in the story, after Naomi has stepped in and filled his place as the child with the weight of her people on her shoulders and future she is less than sure of. Vinneas and Kizabel also fill nearly identical roles in the narrative, both offering the perspective of people entrenched in this war since childhood who now seek to give mankind a leg up in the war but are largely ignored and outright hindered by those who are offended by the manner in which they go about it.

While all of these characters are able to show the readers events that the other characters are not privy to, the lack of diversity in roles and, to a lesser extent, personality, creates characters that it is difficult to invest in. Even Torro and Rae, who I felt stood better on their own, still filled the role of foot soldier who doesn't really want to be there but has their own reasons for not leaving AND who is a horrible failure at the majority of what they are being trained to do yet have an extraordinary and uncanny ability in some other area of training that is deemed just as valuable.

The more I think about it while writing this review, the more problems stick out to me. There are nomads who sound like they learned to read with a thesaurus for no apparent reason, characters who are far too knowledgeable on things that they shouldn't know unless they are social scientists, and an unwavering insistence that everything bad in the world is directly caused by the Valentines and once those aliens are defeated everything can be fixed. However, even with everything that I could pick apart, I didn't hate it. There was enough that was interesting and engaging (see the second paragraph of this review for some of those) for me to keep reading. And after seeing the that the alien big bad is referred to as "Romeo", I knew that I would have to take the story with a grain of salt anyway. While I personally do not see myself continuing the series (if there is one) I cannot say that I do not see this novel finding appeal for someone else.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of the book from the publisher.

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