The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen; Scholastic Press, 342 pages ($17.99). Ages 10 and up.
“The False Prince” was fine old-fashioned entertainment about an heir to the throne in disguise. This second book in Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy returns to the adventures of young King Jaron (who masqueraded as the orphan Sage in the first book) and continues the same page-turning suspense and nifty plot twists that made the first book so much fun. (This book is keyed to a slightly older audience, probably because of the rather grim amount of bloody violence.) Just weeks after Jaron has claimed the throne, in a kingdom under siege from all sides, he barely escapes an assassination attempt and decides for the good of the kingdom he must flee. As in the first book, he must maintain a constant juggling act, wondering whom to trust and recklessly gambling with his own life as he joins a pirate band led by bloodthirsty pirate King Devlin in the intriguingly colorful setting of a pirate hangout in Tarblade Bay. Nielsen offers memorable characters, a complex world of feuding kingdoms complete with maps and a vivid political backdrop as a maturing Jaron confronts the difficult realities that come with his kingly responsibilities. This book raises interesting questions about loyalty, war and the personal sacrifices required of a leader, particularly when it comes to Jaron’s friendships with Imogen and Amarinda, a romantic triangle that will interest the older readers in the books’ target audience.
– Jean Westmoore
Extinction by Mark Alpert; Thomas Dunne Books, 384 pages ($25.99)
A Chinese experiment involving the use of political prisoners and a supercomputer goes horribly wrong in Mark Alpert’s chilling thriller, “Extinction.”
Alpert spins a variant of the Frankenstein monster mythos with the terrifying capabilities of current technology. A computer named Supreme Harmony is linked to the lobotomized minds of test subjects and begins to become self-aware. The test subjects begin to think with one mind, and Supreme Harmony’s first task is to ensure its survival by eliminating any and all threats.
Jim Pierce specializes in designing high-tech prosthetics for wounded veterans. A man arrives at his home and demands to know the whereabouts of Pierce’s daughter, Layla. She’s a hacker, and she’s accidentally downloaded material that reveals Supreme Harmony’s existence and plans. Pierce will do anything to save his daughter, but it’s not as simple as finding the bad guy and stopping him.
– Associated Press