4 out of 5 stars
I received an ARC of the second book.
Spoiler alert for the first book.
What started as a vaccine to save humanity may have become its undoing. Aside from protecting most humans from a deadly virus, the vaccine gives superpowers to a small minority. The US government is trying to track all super-powered individuals down and force them into service. Those who want to remain independent can either go at it alone (not advised since the bounty on individuals with powers is high), or they can work for one of the major crime families and trade their skills for protection.
Ciere, our protagonist and powerful illusionist, has survived so far in a small band of thieves and con artists, avoiding both the crime syndicates and the government. When she and her friends get involved in tracing the original vaccine formula, she is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and has to decide which side is better equipped to handle what may be the unfettered ability to grant superpowers.
This books is perfect for anyone who enjoyed Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy. They both have mafia-style gangs of criminals, select persons who use powers to commit crimes, and even a similar narrative voice (somewhat irreverent and funny teen narrator).
Ciere eventually sides with the mob, figuring there is going to be nothing worse for international politics than the US with a super-hero army at their disposal, but two of her friends end up in the other camp. One, Daniel, is coerced by a high-level manipulator into serving in exchange for immunity for Ciere and some others. Devon willingly takes an internship as a way to get away from his father. We get the second book from a variety of different perspectives that show many of the implications of having a select few in a society having God-like powers. How can you track and control them and is it ethical? Can you create them? Would you even want to try?
The worst part of the book was the confusion between Daniel’s and Devon’s characters. They have different back stories, but their names are so similar that, when reading quickly, it is hard to remember who is who. They both start with “D”, both are Ciere’s friends and both work and interact with the same people. It was confusing at times.
I really enjoyed this series. It has the surprises and intricate plots you can expect from heist and crime films, with the action you would predict from a YA science fiction novel. I love that a bunch of potential super heroes have to go into hiding and use their powers to pull off crimes. The classification and selection of superheroes was well done, with the vaccine only granting 6 or so various powers (illusion, manipulation, thought-reading, etc.), each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some powers cancel each other out in some ways, so each crime and trick must have the proper cadre of powers if it has any hope of success. The way they play off of each other is well done.
The characters are well written. They take their situations seriously and do not get completely sidetracked from all possible peril by romance. Hooray!
I really, really enjoyed these books. They are just the right amount of fun and serious. They are an awesome spin on the superhero tropes. Go Emily Lloyd-Jones!