Maberry, Jonathan. The Orphan Army (The Nightsiders #1)
May 19th 2015, Simon & Schuster
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Milo lives in a post apocalyptic society in a pod of other young people who train to fight against the space alien "bugs", or Dissosterin invaders that have taken over Earth. When he comes across an odd pyramid, he meets an equally odd girl who tells him that the Heart of Darkness is missing from the pyramid, and will spell disaster for them all. Barnaby, Milo's Cajun friend, warns him that the girl might be a Rougaroo-- a werewolf. It's a good guess, because there are all sorts of threats in Milo's world, including Stingers and the Huntsman, both of which are dispatched by the bugs and sent to attack Milo's encampment. The Stingers, huge robotic attack beetles, are the biggest threat, and both the wolves and the witches help Milo fight against them, since the Huntsman goal is to enslave everyone on Earth. and hopes to use the Heart of Darkness to create an endless swarm army.
Strengths: Maberry can certainly write. The prose is beautiful and evocative. The characters are well developed, and there's a good amount of action. The Stingers sound terrifying and gross. There's a good amount of diversity in the characters as well.
Weaknesses: Like this author's Rot and Ruin, this is rather long (400 pages) and a little too philosophical for the middle grade demographic. I had to take notes to keep everything straight. While the world building was okay, I felt that the back story of how the world became dystopian was lacking.
What I really think: If I had a strong core of fantasy fans, I would buy this, but I currently do not have those readers. I'll look at the rest of the series and consider. I did buy the Rot and Ruin series, and lots of readers pick it up; few finish.
McIntosh, Fiona. The Whisperer
April 14th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copy received from the publisher
Griff works at Tyren's circus, and is happy building things because it keeps him busy and far away from people... and he can hear their thoughts. When Tyren finds this out, he wants to exploit Griff's talents, but he has also recently taken on Tess and her magical creature menagerie, whom he saved from the Stalkers. Lute is the son of King Rodin, whose brother Janko is in charge of the Stalkers and who really wants to take over the kingdom. He makes an attempt, killing Rodin and attacking Lute, but Lute escapes with the help of his long time aide, Pilo. Griff also escapes, and the two boys realize that they can speak to each other-- Griff hears "the whisperer" and knows what Lute is doing. Eventually, Pilo (who is separated from Lute after an attack) finds Griff, and is convinced he is really Lute! With the help of a number of people, including Calico Grace the pirate and Bitter Olof, the dwarf, Griff and Tyren solve the mystery of their lineage. Can they manage to save the kingdom from Janko as well?
Strengths: Had a The False Prince, John Flanagan sort of feel to it, with a decent amount of adventure and some royal twists. Supporting characters were well-drawn, and both Griff and Lute were likeable. They passed out more than one would expect, but at least they weren't constantly injured like Sage. Best of all, this is a stand alone title, with the fate of all the characters neatly wrapped up in an epilogue. I was able to read this and remember it, which is not the case with all fantasy books.
Weaknesses: No new ground here, with a fairly stock setting and plot. I could foresee a lot of the events even without psychic powers.
What I really think: Since I have a hard cover copy, I'll put it in the collection, but I don't know that I would buy it. Apparently, my lack of fantasy readers has been going on for at least three years. (Given my anti-fantasy rant on The False Prince review!)