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Julie Bertagna – Zenith

May 19, 2009

58. Zenith by Julie Bertagna (2009)
Exodus Trilogy, Book 2

Read my Review of:
– Book 1, Exodus

Length: 340 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi

Started: 07 May 2009
Finished: 13 May 2009

Zenith was published in the US by Walker Books for Young Readers on 17 March 2009; you can get a copy from Amazon here. Many thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy to review!

Where did it come from? From the publishers.
Why do I have it? I thought it sounded interesting.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 03 April 2009.
Verdict? Keeper; now I really want the third one.

A world of ocean;
nowhere wants the refugees.
Will they find a home?

Summary: The ship Mara commandeered from the sky city of New Mungo is headed north, with its diverse passengers of Treenesters, urchins, and boat city Refugees. They’re headed for the land known as Greenland, Mara’s last hope of solid ground in the drowned world of 2100. However, tensions are running high amongst the refugees, a problem that is worsened when they reach land – only to find it already inhabited by a harsh, cruel people. Troubles are magnified upon the arrival of Tuck, a Gypsea boy, whose pirate-ish people have followed Mara’s ship and are bent on a fight. Will Mara and her people ever find somewhere to call home?

Review: While still interesting, intelligent, and a quick read, Zenith suffered somewhat from second-book-of-the-trilogy syndrome. I think that’s inherent to the format, though; the first book introduces a new world, and hooks you in with a quick adventure, and the final book of a trilogy gets the big showy finale, but the second book’s job is usually just to set up a bunch of plot threads to be resolved later. (Anybody want to prove me wrong? Any trilogy of books where the middle one is your favorite? And no bringing up Empire Strikes Back – I said *books*.)

In any case, that’s the situation with Zenith – a whole lot of set-up, but not a lot of pay-off. Because that’s inherent to the trilogy format, I can’t dock the book too much, but it still left me feeling somewhat incomplete. I also wasn’t crazy about the way various story elements were handled – Fox’s story in particular seemed like it could have used more action and less of him sitting around moping. I’ll reserve final judgement until I see how all of the various threads that were left dangling are played out in the final book of the trilogy… but since Zenith is only recently published, I may have to wait a while.

I don’t mean this review to come across as negative – plenty of the elements that made Exodus so enjoyable are present here as well. Mara is a very identifiable protagonist; the future that Bertagna gives us is frighteningly plausible and well-thought-out; the book moves along at a quick clip; Bertagna’s writing has gotten smoother and more self-assured (although she’s sticking with the present tense, which is not my favorite style choice); and best of all, this book makes you think about our impact on the Earth and on future generations without getting preachy. I’ll forgive a host of (as yet) unresolved plot threads for a book that manages to be simultaneously intellectually meaty and excitingly action-packed. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I still think young teens everywhere should be encouraged to read this series, but it’s got substantial crossover appeal as well, particularly for adults who are looking for a story on a very serious topic that disguises itself as a light, enjoyable, quick-moving read.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Julie Bertagna’s Website

Other Reviews: Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Out on the world’s ocean, night is a black warhorse.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2009 5:35 am

    I picked the first book in this trilogy up yesterday from the library and I knew that I had recently read a review, but I was drawing a blank! It was you apparently. :)

  2. keidalgrim permalink
    May 20, 2009 1:48 pm

    Hi Nicki:

    You wrote: “Any trilogy of books where the middle one is your favorite?”

    I actually am in the middle of reading and writing about one now. The trilogy is called Inkworld by Cornelia Funke (Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath). I’m writing about this series now over on my blog.

    I hated the first book and loved the second. I wouldn’t have given this series another chance if it weren’t for the positive reviews of the second book.

    While this may not be true for everyone, for me, this is a definite example where the sequel is worlds better than the first.


  3. May 20, 2009 2:39 pm

    Kailana – Very cool! I hope you enjoy it; let me know how it goes!

    Keith – Oh, duh! I’ve read and reviewed all three, and you’re right, Inkspell is easily my favorite. I wonder if that’s because it wasn’t originally planned as a trilogy, but as a standalone book with the next two added later?

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