The Thousand Steps

Catalyst. (Fiery Spiral: Bk. 1). Sept. 2019. 240p. Tr $16. ISBN 9781946395245.
Gr 6-8–This first book in the series sets the stage for a dystopian fantasy based in South Africa in the year 2055. Sixteen-year-old Ebba grows up in an underground bunker, believing that the world outside has been rendered uninhabitable by a cataclysm that destroyed human civilization. When she suddenly reenters the world above, she learns that she is actually an heiress to a great fortune and the subject of interest for a feud between gods. In this new world, Ebba must decide what she values most and who to trust along the way. This novel will draw readers in with its high stakes and well-developed characters. Ebba is an interesting, if frustratingly naive, protagonist who confronts challenging issues—particularly a legacy of apartheid. At times, it may prove difficult for readers to suspend disbelief while following Ebba’s journey, as she and others rapidly shift their perspectives and attitudes. Although this book references a deep history of racism, that theme could have been further explored, especially for younger readers who may not grasp the story’s full context.
VERDICT A strong, character-driven work recommended for readers looking for dystopian fantasy with a social justice bent

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