“History is broken, and we need your help to fix it.” What kid could turn down an invitation like that? Not fifth-grade best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste, who star in this kickoff to the seven-book Infinity Ring series (Lisa McMann, Matt de le Peña, and others will write subsequent titles). Dak and Sera live in an America beset by natural disasters and controlled by an organization known as the SQ (also, there are 48 states, and the U.S. capital is Philadelphia). Passionate about history (Dak) and science (Sera), both friends are drawn into an ancient conflict between the SQ and the Hystorians, who hope to correct “Breaks” in Earth’s time line. Via the Infinity Ring device Dak’s parents invented, Dak, Sera, and 16-year-old Hystorian Riq travel to 1492 Spain to prevent a mutiny against Christopher Columbus aboard the Santa Maria. It’s a quick, straightforward adventure with a successful mix of action, adventure, and historical substance. An interactive online Infinity Ring game debuts alongside this installment; the second book, Divide and Conquer by Carrie Ryan, arrives in November. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Aug.)
VOYA - Jessica Atherton
James Dashner’s time-traveling adventure tale keeps a brisk pace as three teens try to save the future by fixing the past. In the dystopian present, Dak Smyth and Sera Froste live in a world run awry, where Alexander the Great dies before he can do anything deserving of the name, and dangerous hurricanes and earthquakes regularly ravage the earth. In order to solve these problems, Dak and Sera use the infinity ring to correct these “Great Breaks” in time so that history returns to its proper course. In this installment of the projected seven-book series, they travel to Italy in 1942 and set off on La Santa Maria de la Inmaculada Concepción. Their mission: save Christopher Columbus. Infinity Ring features formula writing at its best. The characters fulfill such token roles as the history nerd and the science geek, but Dashner makes the familiar feel fresh. Occasionally featuring three-page chapters, this book speeds along with accessible vocabulary suitable for reluctant readers and historical references that reward history buffs. Dak’s obsessive outbursts on historical factoids might repel empathetic readers with their accurate example of social awkwardness, but his weakness becomes a strength as they experience history firsthand. Middle graders who enjoy the 39 Clues series could easily transition into this series, which will also feature popular authors such as Carrie Ryan, Lisa McMann, Matt de La Pe?a, Matthew Kirby, and Jennifer A. Neilsen. Save a place on your shelves for this fast-paced and fun series about historical time travel. Ages 11 to 14.
Children's Literature - Tiffany Torbeck
Dak and Sera are just two normal kids living in a broken world. An organization called SQ is in control but society is barely holding together in the face of dozens of natural disasters. One organization, The Hystorians, believes that the world is coming to an end due to The Breaks, mistakes in time that have changed the course of history; but Dak and Sera, with the help of a time travel device called the Infinity Ring can right the wrongs and bring about change. Dak, Sera, and Hystorian in training, Riq only have days to travel back to 1492 and stop the mutiny on the Santa Maria and make sure that Columbus reaches the New World. "The Infinity Ring" series hopes to benefit from the wild success of the 39 Clues books with multiple authors and online games, but it just does not match up. If the reader thinks too hard about the implausibility of the plot, everything just falls apart. Why does not the gang start at the first break, supposedly the murder of Alexander the Great? Why do they take a Square with them when that is obviously technology invented by the enemy, and how are they keeping this item charged while in other time periods? Are they really going to go unnoticed through time, even though their race, accents and attitudes betray them? It is all too far-fetched. The writing itself is serviceable, but there is nothing uncommon here. Also, the authors lined up to write the next book seem to be new authors, and mostly write young adult novels. This does not seem to be a group that is comfortable writing for the middle grade (third to fifth grade) audience that will be reading these books. This will be a profitable enough series, and all types of libraries will need to purchase this series because it is marketed as the next big thing, but unfortunately, it falls flat. Reviewer: Tiffany Torbeck
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—In an alternate reality, fifth-graders Dak Smyth and Sera Froste discover a time-travel device invented by Dak's parents called the Infinity Ring. After a test run leaves his parents lost in time, the friends learn of a secret group called the Hystorians who claims that there are breaks in the past that have caused history to go off course. They plan to use the Infinity Ring to fix those breaks and, as Dak and Sera are the only ones able to use it thanks to a DNA-lock implemented by Dak's parents, the kids are enlisted to help. Events necessitate a rushed departure from the present when the SQ, a mysterious organization that seems to run the world, attacks the Hystorians's headquarters. Dak and Sera disappear into the past, joined by Riq, a teenager with a talent for languages to complement Sera's scientific expertise and Dak's historical knowledge. They are charged with fixing the Great Breaks in time to save the future from a Cataclysm of natural disasters. This is the first title in a multiplatform series patterned after "The 39 Clues" series (Scholastic). It includes a code to unlock an online game or mobile app. Action drives the narrative, leaving little time to develop characters and relationships. Events happen very quickly and there are missed opportunities to probe more thoroughly ethical questions raised by Dak and Sera about changing history, as well as which events to change. Still, the brisk action and interactive component will likely attract readers, particularly those who devoured "The 39 Clues" titles.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Kicking off a multiauthor, multimedia thriller series modeled on The 39 Clues, this paint-by-numbers opener endows three teenagers with a football-sized time device and sends them back to 1492 to keep Columbus from being killed in a mutiny. Strewing early scenes with clever "what's wrong with this picture?" references like a flag with 48 stars and the national capital as Philadelphia, Dashner hooks up self-described "Time Nerds" Dak (mad about history), Sera (ditto science) and Riq (ditto languages), with the Hystorians. Set up by Aristotle after the premature assassination of Alexander, this secret organization is meant to identify other history-derailing Great Breaks (through intuition, apparently) and to assist travelers from the future in fixing them. The Hystorians are opposed by a powerful group called SQ for no clear reason except that, you know, there have to be Bad Guys. Logic not being the strong suit here, the Time Nerds' first mission with the newly invented Infinity Ring takes them not to ancient Macedon but to 15th-century Spain. This and subsequent print volumes end on cliffhangers that segue into gamelike, online-only sequels (not seen) set in other eras and accessible with pass codes provided on foldout clue sheets. Off-the-shelf adventure modules, stocked with familiar character types and set into a scenario that is nonsensical even by the usual low standards of formula time-travel adventure. (Science fiction. 10-12)
The New York Times Book Review
While there is no shortage of children's books on the subject [of time travel]…Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time…manages to cut a fresh channel in the well-worn time stream…Dashner has all the skills to open this series successfully: A Mutiny in Time features tight plotting, snappy dialogue and a judicious balance of humor and suspense…vivid, intriguing, not fully realized but hinting at a larger story that feels right. For young readers who enjoy fast-paced adventures, especially children who have an interest in history, the Infinity Ring series promises to be well worth their time.
From the Publisher
Praise for Infinity Ring #1: A Mutiny in Time:
"Tight plotting, snappy dialogue... the story moves at a breathless pace.” -- Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Percy Jackson & the Olympians
"'History is broken, and we need your help to fix it.' What kid could turn down an invitation like that?... It's a quick, straightforward adventure with a successful mix of action, adventure, and historical substance." -- Publishers Weekly
"Save a place on your shelves for this fast-paced and fun series about historical time travel." -- Voice of Youth Advocates
Praise for Infinity Ring #2: Divide and Conquer:
"Many history-loving kids will be sucked in, while others will be hooked by the accompanying full-color poster-map... and corresponding online game." -- Booklist
Praise for Infinity Ring #3: The Trap Door:
"Three novels into the series, the Infinity Ring pulls off a shocking twist. This book earns the year's strangest compliment: It doesn't read like a time-travel story. It has all the usual tropes: impossible technology, split-second escapes, glimpses of the future. There's even an inventive variation on the grandfather paradox. But in its best scenes, it reads like a historical novel." -- Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Infinity Ring #4: Curse of the Ancients:
"Fans of the series will already be hooked, but even more skeptical readers may be a little curious what happens next." -- Kirkus Reviews
Children's Literature - Krisan Murphy
Present and past are both out of control in this four-disc audio version of the first book in the "Infinity Ring" series. History aficionado Dak Smyth and mathematics geek Sera Froste prove to be an effective team when it comes to entering and repairing history. They blast back in time through the Infinity Ring, created in part by Dak's scientist parents. If it weren't for the savant intelligence of these fifth-graders, it would be difficult to believe their ability to maneuver the physics, as well as to grasp the full-orbed knowledge of the details in history it requires to accomplish their mission. In a frantic race against time, Dak and Sera join with history-repairer-in-training Riqin a maritime city in Spain where a ship's captain is preparing for a voyage. The captain is Christopher Columbus and the break in history, which the three young time-travelers must unravel, is a mutiny which threatens historical events worldwide. Students will enjoy the fast-paced story read by a captivating narrator. Reviewer: Krisan Murphy
Read an Excerpt
DAK SMYTH sat on his favorite branch of his favorite tree, right next to his favorite friend, Sera Froste. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon, he thought.
Beyond the safety of the tree, there was plenty to worry about. The world was falling apart and the people in charge of things didn't seem to care. But Dak decided not to let little stuff like that bother him now.
Sera apparently agreed. “Feels good up here,” she said. “Doesn't it?”
“Yeah, it sure does. Makes me kinda sad I wasn't born a monkey. Then I could live in one of these things.”
Sera laughed. “You've got the personality of a monkey. And the smell. That's two-thirds of the way there, at least.”
“Thanks,” Dak said, as if she'd just paid him a tremendous compliment.
A soft breeze made the branches sway back and forth, just enough to soothe Dak into a partial trance. He and Sera climbed up the tree every so often when there was nothing else to do. It gave them a chance to talk, away from any distractions distractions like adults, who complained constantly about taxes and crime rates and, in whispers, about the SQ. With all the mental static, it was a wonder Dak and Sera managed to get any thinking done. Fortunately, they were both geniuses . . . although in very different ways.
“You excited for the field trip this week?” Sera asked.
Dak looked over at her, slightly suspicious. Their class was going to a museum, full of history which he loved and not a whole lot of science which was her passion. But the question seemed genuine.
“Remember my last birthday?” he asked in return. “When I got that replica of Thomas Jefferson's ascot?”
“How could I forget? You came screaming down the street like a girl who'd just found a bucket full of candy.”
Dak nodded, relishing the memory. “Well, I'm even more excited about this trip.”
“Gotcha. That's pretty excited.”
They sat in silence for a while, Dak enjoying the breeze and the sounds of nature and the break from the rest of life. Gradually, though, he realized that Sera seemed far less relaxed. There was an unmistakable tension in her shoulders that had nothing to do with tree climbing. He followed her gaze across the yard to his front porch, where his parents had recently put up a new flag. The small flagpole affixed to the side of the house was usually used for seasonal displays holiday flags in the winter, the forty eight-starred U.S. flag in the long summer months.
Now, for the first time, Dak's parents had put up a stark white flag with a black symbol in its center. That symbol was a circle broken by a curve and a thunderbolt the insignia of the SQ.
“Don't tell me your parents buy into all that,” Sera said, her voice solemn.
“I don't think so. They said it's easier this way. They're less likely to be bothered if they just put up the flag.”
“The SQ they make me sick,” Sera said. Dak had never heard such fierceness in her voice. “Someone has got to stand up to them eventually. Or someday it's going to be too late.”
Dak listened to her as he stared out into the woods beyond his house. All that green, all those animals. There were parts of the world where these kinds of places had disappeared entirely. He'd read enough history to know that where the SQ went, trouble followed. He suddenly felt his own little burst of determination.
“Maybe it'll be us who stand up,” he said. “You never know.”
“Yeah?” she answered absently.
“There's an old saying,” Dak told her. “The times, they are a-changin'.”
“Ooh, I like that.”
“Maybe that'll be our motto. Maybe we'll change the times someday. Every problem has a solution, right? And our big brains have got to be good for something. What do you say?”
She looked over at him and stuck out her hand. He shook it hard.
Somewhere nearby, a bird chirped excitedly.
The Only Hope
BRINT TAKASHI stared at the monitor and tried to remember a time when he didn't know the world was about to end.
Mari Rivera, his second-in-command, sat next to him, and the way she was slowly shaking her head back and forth, she seemed to be the second most depressed person on the planet. Brint was the first.
“Well?” Mari asked. “What do you think?”
“What do I think? I think we have a global catastrophe on our hands,” Brint replied. “Volcanic eruptions all along the Pacific Rim. Blizzards in parts of South America that have never even seen snow before. If we're lucky, the tropical storm brewing in the Atlantic might put out the wildfires in the Northeast.”
“Look on the bright side,” Mari said, her voice grim. “At least people believe we're in trouble now.”
“People still believe what the SQ tells them to believe. Because fear is always more powerful than truth.” He ran his fingers through his dark hair and sighed. “Aristotle would be so proud. Look what the Hystorians have been reduced to! The SQ is going to win even if it means destroying the world.”
It wasn't just the natural disasters that had him worried. Or the blackouts. Or the food shortages. There were also the Remnants. Every day when Brint went home and looked at the picture that hung above the fireplace he and his wife sitting by a river, the sun glinting off the water behind them he felt a disorienting twist in his head and stomach. A gnawing gap in his mind that made him extremely uncomfortable. Someone at least one someone was missing from that photo. It made no sense whatsoever, but he knew in his bones that someone was missing.
He wasn't alone in suffering these types of sensations. More people experienced Remnants with each passing day. They'd strike when you least expected them. And they could drive you crazy. Literally crazy.
Time had gone wrong this is what the Hystorians believed. And if things were beyond fixing now, there was only one hope left . . . to go back in time and fix the past instead.
Mari did what she always did when he was inclined to whine. She ignored him and moved on to the task at hand. “What's the latest on the Smyths?” she asked. Of all the scientists the Hystorians tracked, they were the only ones who hadn't been shut down by the SQ . . . yet.
Brint pulled up their file and pointed out the latest developments. All of the Smyths' experiments, findings, data every little thing they did in their lab each and every day it was all being monitored by the Hystorians. Without the Smyths' knowledge, of course. Brint would be sure to apologize for that after they saved the world.
They both fell silent for a minute, staring at the data on the screen as if hypnotized. The Smyths were so close. If only they could figure out the missing piece in their calculations. If only they could give the Hystorians a fighting chance at carrying out Aristotle's two-thousand year-old plan to save the world.
“It's coming, you know,” Mari whispered. “Sooner than I ever thought.”
Brint nodded as dread squeezed his heart. “I never would've guessed it would be in our lifetime.”
Mari continued, her words like a prophecy of doom from a wrinkled old oracle.
“It's coming, all right. The Cataclysm is coming, and we'll all wish we were dead long before it kills us.”