The Darkest Path

The Darkest Path

4.3 19
by Jeff Hirsch

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USA TODAY bestselling author Jeff Hirsch once again creates a futuristic world with stunning, dramatic realism.

A civil war rages between the Glorious Path--a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier--and what's left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six

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USA TODAY bestselling author Jeff Hirsch once again creates a futuristic world with stunning, dramatic realism.

A civil war rages between the Glorious Path--a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier--and what's left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six years ago. Cal has been working in the Path's dog kennels, and is very close to becoming one of the Path's deadliest secret agents. Then Cal befriends a stray dog named Bear and kills a commander who wants to train him to be a vicious attack dog. This sends Cal and Bear on the run, and sets in motion a series of incredible events that will test Cal's loyalties and end in a fierce battle that the fate of the entire country rests on.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hirsch returns to the post-apocalyptic well of his first two books, The Eleventh Plague and Magisterium, in this bleak and somewhat familiar novel. The archetype at play is a military-religious one: a man named Nathan Hill has founded his own church and taken over several southern and western states. The former U.S. has been mired in a civil war ever since, and Callum Roe and his brother, James, were two early converts to the cause, captured when they were kids and forced into service. After bonding with a stray dog, Cal kills a superior officer to save the dog's life and becomes a fugitive. His journey out of occupied Utah and attempts to subvert the cause he once fought for intermix with his meeting an attractive girl named Nat and joining the U.S. forces. The novel hits its stride during well-choreographed action sequences and in occasional scenes featuring Hill, a demagogue who rarely comes across as the evil force he embodies, showing empathy when talking to Callum even as he perpetrates horrific acts of war and terror. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Crowe: Harvey Klinger. (Oct.)
From the Publisher


"A gripping survival drama." --USA TODAY

"Sure to be a hit among fans of dystopias." --BOOKLIST

"An impressive story with strong characters." --PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Children's Literature - Bonita Herold
The year is 2026. Civil war rages between the states that are controlled by the Army of the Glorious Path and the rest of the country, controlled by the U. S. Federal Army. Six years ago, Callum Roe and his younger brother James were captured by the Glorious Path, a militant religion based on the teachings of a former U. S. soldier. From that time, Cal's life has revolved around protecting James and waiting for the opportunity for them to escape while pretending to be a loyal soldier of the Glorious Path. When the opportunity arises, sixteen-year-old Callum escapes; however, James finds comfort in the Path and refuses to join him. This sets the stage for a story that demonstrates the inherent horrors of civil wars: the inconceivability of brothers fighting brothers, the sadness of families breaking up when choosing different sides, and the frustration that results from the inability to tell friend from foe. Fortunately, this book offers more than doom and gloom. Unexpected moments of compassion keep hope alive for both Cal and the reader. Anyone who reads dystopian novels will appreciate this fast-paced, action-packed novel. Reviewer: Bonita Herold
VOYA - Jane Van Wiemokly
In 2026, fifteen-year-old Callum and his younger brother, James, are living with the Glorious Path after being captured six years before. The United States is in the midst of a civil war, with most northern states controlled by the U.S. Federal Army (the free people) and most southern states controlled by the Army of the Glorious Path, a militant religious group with a charismatic leader. The Path members inculcate their beliefs by repetition, brainwashing, and threats. Their captives are given "The Choice:" the Path or death. Cal, a secret nonbeliever of the Path, has survived in this violent atmosphere any way he can, including killing, with the ultimate goal of escaping and returning to his home in New York. A bonding with a stray dog directly leads to his escape attempt. When he realizes that James has "turned" and wants to stay with the Path, he is heartbroken but accepts James's choice. This dystopian story is chilling, with much violence and casual killing, all for a proclaimed righteous cause. The parallels with events of today (and the past) are evident: religious groups espousing their views as the only acceptable ones, the schisms between the people and governments, belief that killing is justified to promote the glorious good. The action keeps coming and propels Cal's cross-country flight, but there are unanswered questions. What started the rift? How did it get to the point of civil war? What happens to the dog that so greatly influences Cal? The only hint of an outcome is a September 2026 map at the end showing which states are on which side, compared to a June 2026 map in the beginning. These questions and many more could make for great discussions. Reviewer: Jane Van Wiemokly
Kirkus Reviews
Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe is caught up in the second American Civil War. It's 2026, and the United States is once again fragmented. Federal forces are at war with the Army of the Glorious Path, which includes most of the former Confederacy plus additional states, including the southwest, Alaska and Washington. The Path--a militant and religiously fundamentalist organization--in which women are robed and veiled "companions" ministering to the men--is dedicated to being "a light in the darkness and the rod that falls upon the backs of the defiant." Cal, captured by the Path six years previously, is set to move up from novice to citizen when Capt. Monroe reneges on a deal, and Cal instead becomes Pvt. Callum Roe in the army. When he kills a man to protect a dog, he becomes a runner, off the Path, intending to journey across the war-torn country from Arizona to his former home in New York. Cal's first-person point of view offers the immediacy of his personal experience in this action-packed drama, but unfortunately, it isn't up to offering the fuller social and political history of the war that many readers would find interesting. An intriguing vision of a possible future rooted in current politics and wrapped in an exciting tale of war. (maps) (Fiction. 12-18)

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Callum Roe, 15, and his younger brother, James, were whisked away from their parents in Ithaca, New York, six years ago, by followers of the Glorious Path. More than a religious sect, armies of Path believers have systematically taken over large portions of the United States. Citizens offered "the Choice" of joining are given jobs or trained as soldiers for the cause, and those who refuse often disappear without a trace. James is content with his Path life working as an officer's valet in Arizona, but Cal is considered rebellious and relegated to cleaning out dog kennels. Challenged when trying to save a stray dog named Bear from certain maltreatment, he kills the kennel boss and goes on the lam with Bear. Intending to journey back to New York, Cal heads north to evade capture and encounters a full-fledged war between the Path and the Feds, encountering roadblocks, air assaults, and soldiers at every turn. In Wyoming, Cal meets Natalie and other teens resisting the Path, and they are nearly killed in a skirmish. Nat's father is a casualty and, while they convalesce in a rich kid's hideaway, Cal sees Nat's transformation from a mere rebel to a martyr willing to die to avenge her father's death. Her plan results in a page-turning climax fraught with danger and emotion. The dystopian story is action-packed all the way.—Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Jeff Hirsch graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with an MFA in Dramatic Writing, and The Eleventh Plague is his debut novel. He lives in Astoria, New York, with his wife. Visit him online at

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