Last Star Burning

400p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481486132.
Gr 6 Up—Game piece soldiers placed on a weiqui board provide a foreshadowing of the plot twists to come in this novel. Jiang Sev, of the First Class, has been demoted to the Fourth Class because of her traitor mother. The demotion has not dimmed the devotion of Sev's Second Class friend, Tai-ge, whose family is tasked with "reeducating" Sev. Heavily influenced by the author's experiences in China, this dystopian fantasy features a strong 16-year-old character who must navigate a world in which city leaders drop bombs on the lower classes while blaming the explosions on a nearby country. As Sev leaves the safety of the walls to face the Outside with the help of the chairman's son, Howl, she begins to uncover the true nature of the city's leadership, and that the rebels within the Mountain have their own agenda—one masterminded by a brilliant double agent and former colleague of Sev's mother. Sangster does a masterful job of world-building, and takes the time to develop characters and a plot that twists in on itself multiple times. As with Sev, readers are dribbled clues that clearly point to more diabolical machinations on both sides. The backdrop of vicious creatures coupled with adventures in which survival is not always assured will keep patient readers engaged. The cliff-hanger ending guarantees a sequel in the offing, and the action-packed, adventurous prose makes it appropriate for younger teens.
VERDICT Give to fans of Leigh Bardugo's "Six of Crows" series and Sabaa Tahir's "Ember in the Ashes" trilogy.

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