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Ninth City Burning

Ninth City Burning

4.3 3
by J. Patrick Black

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For fans of Ender’s Game, Red Rising, and The Hunger Games comes an explosive, epic science fiction debut...

Cities vanished, gone in flashes of world-shattering destruction. An alien race had come to make Earth theirs, bringing a power so far beyond human technology it seemed like magic. It was nearly the end of the


For fans of Ender’s Game, Red Rising, and The Hunger Games comes an explosive, epic science fiction debut...

Cities vanished, gone in flashes of world-shattering destruction. An alien race had come to make Earth theirs, bringing a power so far beyond human technology it seemed like magic. It was nearly the end of the world—until we learned to seize the power, and use it to fight back.
The war has raged for five centuries. For a cadet like Jax, one of the few who can harness the enemy’s universe-altering force, that means growing up in an elite military academy, training for battle at the front—and hoping he is ready. For Naomi, young nomad roaming the wilds of a ruined Earth, it means a daily fight for survival against the savage raiders who threaten her caravan.
When a new attack looms, these two fledging warriors find their paths suddenly intertwined. Together with a gifted but reckless military commander, a factory worker drafted as cannon fodder, a wild and beautiful gunfighter, and a brilliant scientist with nothing to lose—they must find a way to turn back the coming invasion, or see their home finally and completely destroyed.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Black is a fresh new voice who pays respect to the classics of SF in this enjoyable adventure debut. The mighty defenses of Ninth City stand together with the remaining cities on Earth to protect humankind in a centuries-long war against an alien race. Black takes care to represent each stratum of the war-focused Earth: advanced societies in the cities, outpost towns that exist only to supply the war effort, and the marginalized “unincorporated” people who live beyond the protection of the cities. And he creates memorable characters, including the powerful human fontani (who are few but vital to the magic/technology hybrid weapons) and a factory worker drafted into the Legion, to inhabit his thrilling scenarios. Though the array of protagonists slows the pacing and the exploration of the strategy and magic systems diverts too much attention from the main plot, the details eventually come together in a fascinating world. Given this strong foundation, readers can expect more thrilling adventures from this new author. Agent: Kirby Kim, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Generations after Earth has been attacked by an unknown alien force, the world is a different place. Most cities were instantly destroyed by the invaders using an element known as "thelemity," and human survival depends on a few who can wield this power as well. In the intervening centuries, those who use thelemity are sought and put into military service. But while the surviving cities lead the ongoing war efforts, the rural settlements resent being employed as a supply source of resources and soldiers. Two young sisters from the unincorporated wild country are dragged into the conflict. This intriguing debut falters under the weight of too many first-person points of view, some with dialog that is awkward in its efforts to replicate teenspeak. VERDICT While the melding of sf aliens and a reality-altering magic are unusual, thelemity seems too much like plot device superglue. [See Eric Norton's "Genre Spotlight" feature, p. 24ff.—Ed.]—MM
Kirkus Reviews
After an alien invasion and near-instantaneous human extinction that unleashed a force called "thelemity," which "certain people can use to affect reality," most humans live in militarized zones under siege; but there are also warring, nomadic tribes from whose "coda" come two sisters, thelemity adepts, who tip the balance of power.Narrated by seven characters, Black's debut novel, the first in a new series, situates a future Earth in a parallel and "infinite web of worlds—the Realms" which, "drawn out as a map…look something like a tree," a shameless steal from Marvel's Thor. Unknown aliens, nicknamed "Romeo" or the "Valentines," arrived on Valentine's Day through the gateway called Lunar Veil to devastate Earth—why is never clear. The rare humans known as fontani, who produce thelemity, or revenni, "who can use thelemity to impose their will upon the world," fight back. After 500 years of battle, Earth's fate will be in the hands of the seven young narrators, who range from Jax, a 12-year-old military cadet and fontanus, to the easygoing Vinneas, Procurator of the Academy; from the Walker sisters, Rae and Naomi, to drafted soldier Torro; from "artifex" Kizabel—who speaks in footnotes—to elite fighter Imway. Peppered with both irritating incongruities—what happened to global warming? did it just go away? how can Romeo concoct long-gone human things like lobster bisque or television?—and with sly pop-culture references, this tediously militaristic potboiler is formulaic: the underdogs, through honor, strength, and thelemity, become heroes with a little help from their friends. Black borrows a long list of sci-fi/fantasy ingredients to cook up a Hunger Games/Star Wars remix featuring tweens trapped in an unmotivated war which will make them unlikely-but-relatable heroes.
From the Publisher
Praise for Ninth City Burning
"Grabbed my attention from the first page—fresh and un-put-downable. An intriguing cocktail of science fiction, fantasy, and military adventure stirred into something new and satisfying."—Patricia Briggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fire Touched
“A finely crafted and original science-fantasy epic full of wonder and spectacle. Highly recommended.”—Anthony Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Waking Fire
“Ninth City Burning is simultaneously an epic fantasy, a science fiction adventure, a coming of age story, and a delight.” —Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of Magic for Nothing
“Fans of Ender, Harry Potter, Starship Troopers, and manga-style armored mobile suits will find Black’s debut the perfect ticket to a fantastic new world…This thrilling kickoff to an action-packed series will appeal to those who enjoy science fiction mixed with fantasy.” –Booklist
“Black is a fresh new voice who pays respect to the classics of SF in this enjoyable adventure debut…Given this strong foundation, readers can expect more thrilling adventures from this new author.”—Publishers Weekly
"Ninth City Burning is an intense, complex, engrossing story, a tale of multiple lives intersecting… Fans of both fantasy and science-fiction will want to keep an eye out for the next, and the next… "—Jean Johnson, national bestselling author of The Terrans

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

We’re only a few minutes into our quiz when the sirens start, and the first thing I feel is relief, even though I know that’s totally wrong, totally not how I should feel. I can still remember the panic, the terror that used to come over me when I heard the atmospheric incursion siren, the signal that our city is under attack. And I know that’s how all the kids around me must be feeling this very second. But it’s different for me now. Once the first shock of the wailing siren passes, it’s true I’m afraid too, but it isn’t the same kind of fear I used to feel. It’s more like fear of letting everyone down, and even that’s not so bad yet, though I know it’s going to get worse. But for a moment, just a moment, there was that relief, because I’m totally not prepared for this quiz, which I know is crazy, because what kind of person is like, Oh great I won’t have to take a quiz because everybody is going to die.
I’m not a bad student, really. Even in biology, which is the subject of this quiz, which is about photosynthesis, which is how plants turn sunlight into energy. The trouble is whenever I sit down to study I end up picking up the Academy Handbook. It isn’t a long book, but each time I finish I just flip back to the beginning, like maybe if I read it one more time I’ll find the answer I need. Like maybe I just missed it the other hundred-million times. But even though the Handbook has all the rules for life at the Academy, it doesn’t tell me the one thing I really need to know. Oh, and there’s nothing about photosynthesis either.
“Pencils down, cadets.” That’s Danyee, our rhetor. Everyone in Sixth Class Section E has her for biology, physics, and irrational mechanics. She had been pacing the rows of desks, looking over our shoulders one by one, but at the sound of the siren she walked to the front of the room. “In line by the door, please,” she says, her voice calm, almost cheerful, like this is just another lesson.
All around there is the sound of chairs creaking from beneath desks. Near the back of the room, a girl gives a little squeal of panic: her pencil is still scribbling away. She smacks it down like someone swatting a fly, then glances up to see if anyone’s noticed. We all have, including Rhetor Danyee, who takes the girl by the hand and leads her to the line of cadets forming by the door. Using an artificed pencil during any kind of test is totally against the rules, as anyone who’d even picked up the Academy Handbook would know. On a normal day this girl would be in for some big-time trouble, but not today. Rhetor Danyee, who is usually pretty tough, gives the girl’s hand a reassuring squeeze before ushering her into line. If they’re still alive tomorrow, they can talk about punishment then.
I’m cadet 6-E-12, meaning Sixth Class Section E Seat Twelve, so I take my place twelfth from the door. As I walk down the line, I can feel the other cadets watching me—not staring, because you’re supposed to be face-forward when you’re in formation, but from the corners of their eyes. My uniform is the same gray as any other cadet’s, and on my collar I have the same six black pips as everyone in Sixth Class, but there isn’t a person in this city who would mistake me for a normal kid. The symbol I wear at my neck, a golden circle with a second circle inside, is just a reminder. During school hours, everyone is expected to pretend like I’m just another student at the Academy, but that’s all they can really do: pretend.
Over the past few months I’ve gotten used to everyone looking at me differently, gotten used to setting off whispers everywhere I go. It isn’t like people are mean to me. If anything, they’re extra, extra nice. Actual officers will stop and salute me, or congratulate me, or ask to shake my hand. I’ve made a lot of friends since starting at the School of Rhetoric, and my friends from before are still my friends. The kids in Section E seem proud to have me, usually. But not today. Today things are different. Today everyone’s nervous. They know that in a little while their lives could depend on me.
Of all the eleven and twelve year-olds who came back from Sequester, I’m the only one who turned out to be fontani, and as the youngest fontanus in the city, it’s my job to stand for all of us during an attack. The last line of defense. In ten minutes all of Ninth City could be gone, and I will have to fight, to protect whoever is left. And that’s the look the other cadets are giving me now: they’re wondering if they can trust me with their lives, this kid with his long nose and curly dirt-brown hair, who’s somehow skinny and a little pudgy at the same time, who’s in the bottom half of his class in chin-ups and push-ups and don’t even ask about the five-kilometer run. Who’s never been really, really good at anything. They’re seeing the same Jax they’ve known for twelve years, only now I’m somehow supposed to protect them from complete destruction. Even Rhetor Danyee seems tense. I don’t blame them: I wish they didn’t have to depend on me either.
When all the cadets of Section E are in line, Danyee opens the door and we file out of the classroom, forming two columns of ten, everyone moving smoothly in time. Each of us has been doing atmospheric incursion drills practically since we learned to walk. As a section, our best time is classroom to shelter in three minutes and forty-two seconds. It’s all so familiar I almost forget this is the real thing. But only almost.

Meet the Author

J. Patrick Black has worked as a bartender, a small-town lawyer, a home builder, and a costumed theme-park character, all while living a secret double life as a fiction writer. While fiction is now his profession, he still finds occasion to ply his other trades as well. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he likes to visit the ocean. Ninth City Burning is his first novel.

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Ninth City Burning 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black is a recommended science fiction tale, highly recommended and suited for YA audiences. Seven young narrators tell the story in first person of Earth's fate in this four part novel. The narrators are are: Jax, Torro, Vinneas, sisters Rae and Naomi, Kizabel, and Imway. An alien race, nicknamed "Romeo"or the "Valentines," wants to take over the Earth. The war began 500 years ago when "Romeo" brought a weapon that is a universe-altering force known as thelemity. Entire cities have been destroyed and the success of the aliens seemed inevitable until it is discovered that there are people who are called "fontani," who can produce thelemity, or "revenni." These individuals can use thelemity to impose their will upon the world, but more importantly they can fight back against Romeo using this magic/technology hybrid weapon. Ninth City Burning is the first book in a new series. This initial introduction to the story, young protagonists, and the war borrows numerous ideas from other, classic sci fi novels. It has a very slow start that may discourage some readers, but those who stick with it and keep track of the narrators will appreciate the end and likely be anxiously anticipating the second book in this purposed three book series. It can be humorous and playful at times, especially with the pop culture references. I was really looking forward to reading Ninth City Burning, but I did have a few issues with the novel. Those who enjoy YA fiction and frequently read it may not feel the same way. I firmly believe that the market audience for Ninth City Burning is YA, especially based the age of the protagonists, although most of the characters don't exactly talk like they are tweens/teens. Additionally, there are simply too many narrators to keep track of for this strategy to be truly effective. There are many parts with a lot of technical descriptions that could potentially become a bit tedious. (Honestly, I checked out with the magic/technology in the thelemity as I'm not always a great fan of fantasy/magic stories.) There were also things introduced and then left, which I would imagine will play an important role in subsequent books in the series. A solid 3.5 for me, but I'm sure this is a 4.5 for YA fans. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
Barb-TRC More than 1 year ago
Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black is an epic sci-fi fantasy story line. As well as his debut novel. This book is over 500 pages, with a great story that has me amazed at how Black put together this complex detailed world. Ninth City Burning is set in a post- apocalyptic Earth, where they have been fighting an alien invasion that promises to destroy them. It is a world filled with magic & mentors to teach the young children, who have those magical or scientific abilities to help defend their realms. The premise: 500 years ago an alien race (Valentines) invaded Earth, bringing about mass destruction, using a magical weapon called thelemity. Trying to rise up from disaster, the survivors of Earth discovered that some of their people can now use that magic. Bringing about training the Legion military, and teaching those with magic how to use theelernity to create a new world, and defend it. For 500 years, the Valentines have had many attacks on Earth, but on a smaller scale. However, that is about to change, as the aliens are preparing a massive attack that will destroy everyone on Earth. Will the youngsters who have been learning to handle their powers be able to help the veterans and save Earth? This is a difficult review to write, as there are so many scientific details throughout the story. As in any epic fantasy, the first novel tends to explain the world and confuse us along the way. J. Patrick Black has created a wonderful concept in a fascinating world, not to mention some wonderful characters. I will say that this did drag a bit, especially with all the descriptive details. I also thought that Black though giving us some great characters, had so many, that it took me almost half the book to learn who was who. I also thought it was great to see the different types of powers each of them inherited from thelernity magic. But with that said, I really did enjoy the story line. J.Patrick Black does a masterful job creating an amazing world, and did blow me away with all the details he wrote explaining everything about the world and the magic. Most of all, though I thought it was hard keeping up with the 7 main characters, they were all wonderful. I look forward to be able to revisit this world, and the characters I really liked; Rae, Kizabel, Vinneas, Naomi, Jax, Torro and Imway. I suggest if you enjoy Fantasy and Sci-Fi, you need to read Ninth City Burning.
Sue_H More than 1 year ago
Amazingly Complex Debut Novel. Ninth City Burning is the first book by J. Patrick Black so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was an amazingly complex novel and far more than I expected in a debut novel. This is a standalone with no cliffhanger, though it is open-ended for future books in what I hope will be a series. I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. There is violence, as this book is about a war with an alien species. At times this novel seemed more like reading a textbook. Not surprising since the first part of the book is set in classrooms, with pre-teen and early-teen "kids". Ninth City Burning will appeal to those those readers who are more left-brained. Other readers will find parts of it, especially in the beginning, too dry and too educational. It gets better if you keep on reading through the dry parts. The book blurb adequately describes the storyline so I'm not going to repeat that all of that info here. The author did a great job of explaining the "magic" (thelemety) as simply as possible so a complicated subject could make sense to the reader. This is a story of science, magic, battle strategy and saving Earth and what's left of humanity after centuries of war with the aliens. It definitely kept me riveted. I look forward to reading more of his books and really hope he continues this story as a series. I received an ARC copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.