The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Ha! I originally thought that this was a continuation series for Legend…, but nope, it’s a whole new world. It’s fantastic, but with mostly subtle magic other than the titular Young Elites.

Our heroine is conflicted; there are a lot of screws being turned on her. From the very beginning her life is pretty terrible; she’s rescued, but her rescuers have ulterior motives.

I liked it quite a bit and am queuing up the sequels. (It looks like this series is also a trilogy.)

Damage Time by Colin Harvey

A very interesting book; a bit confusing at first, until you come to realize that Pete Shah’s job is to delve into recorded memories… so some of the interstitial chapters are from his professional research and only tie indirectly to the main plot.

There’s a strong theme of memory and identity, and how they’re linked. It’s not abstract or musing–it’s an interesting police procedural with weird tech. The big tech is memory recording and dissemination–basically simsense and BTL–but there are other strong elements, like the expensive personal transportation due to climate taxes, flooding and sea walls, etc. There’s also reference to a great thinning of the planet by plague a generation or two ago.

I liked the world building, the continuity of existing cultures, even with the remade map of this near future. The world is grim, but by no means hopeless.

I really like the changes to Pete as he rebuilds himself; near the end, he points out just how much of the impact of tragedy is lessened when you don’t viscerally remember the reasons you love and hate. The cat and mouse between Pete and Kotian is setup at the beginning and delivers by the end.

The Watch by Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros

A very interesting game; I read it in PDF. It’s an Apocalypse World game that reminds me of Apocalypse World, with strong influences from Night Witches. (Missions feel very similar, though I like the streamlined version of just dealing with complications.)

The setting is great; it’s a fantasy world without Fireballs and Wishes. The characters are women of the watch, who resist the machinations of the Shadow–which has possessed the soldiers of the land, and turned them against our heroes.

The system is written boldly, clearly identifying the themes, and noting that there are reasons that they’re boldly calling out toxic masculinity, foregrounding women as heroes, etc. There’s clear direction that this may affect the players strongly; the X-card is cited as a bare minimum to keep the players at the table safe as they explore these dark themes.

The MC guidance gets very direct, explaining what the Shadow is, how it manifests, and guiding the MC to make some choices to guide their characterization of the Shadow and the influence. The missions are very reminiscent of Night Witches, including the roles (and corresponding rolls) that characters take during the mission. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like failures spin off more rolls with further bad consequences, as sometimes happens in Night Witches missions when trouble begins manifesting.

I really like the idea of this game; while it’s strident in places, I think the game benefits from the clear explanation of what underpins the Shadow and the setting.

Reading along, I found a few small copy editing errors, but nothing that was tough to work around. It was much less jarring than, say, the first copies of Rise of the Runelords.

Champion : a Legend novel by Marie Lu

A solid completion to the trilogy. A few months have passed, and the trio are engaged in the highest levels of guiding the country… which is about to get attacked.

Day and Eden have largely detached and are living in SF; they’re trying to recover from their ailments. June is struggling to act with the senators to craft a response to the nation’s problems… and to support Anden. (This continues to be an issue in his relationship with June.)

There’s a bit of getting the band back together, a dangerous and deceptive plan to save the Republic, a visit to the futuristic feeling Antarctica, etc.

It’s a less thrilling conclusion, to me, but still a solid end to the series. (Though the act of stripping Day’s connections and recent memories at the end felt like a bad Dallas riff.)

I have another book in the world titled The Young Elites; I think it’s set a generation after these turbulent days, when the global and political realms have shifted significantly.