cover image The Pearl Wars

The Pearl Wars

Nick James. Flux, $9.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7387-2341-9

Launching the Skyship Academy series, James's debut is a fast-paced adventure that makes use of some familiar science fiction elements. In James's dystopian future, 15-year-old Jesse is a Skyship Academy student, secretly trained to help residents of Skyship, a nation of vessels hovering over a ruined America, gather the Pearls (a coveted source of energy) that fall from the sky. While on a mission, he encounters Cassius, a surface dweller and Unified Party operative who is being groomed by the manipulative Madame to become a spy. When Madame assigns Cassius to infiltrate Skyship Academy and learn its secrets, the two boys meet again, learning more about their connection to each other and to the powerful Pearls. James handles the book's dual viewpoints well%E2%80%94Jesse's in a self-doubting first-person narrative, Cassius's in a comparatively assured third-person%E2%80%94and delivers solid action sequences throughout (even making what amounts to a future game of dodgeball exciting). The book's espionage elements and teenage angst are par for the course, but James's character development and world-building compensate. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)