In a world on the brink of war, four superpowered teens must learn to work together for peace in Caitlin Lochner's action-packed debut novel.
Lai Cathwell is good at keeping secrets. As a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager who is feared and shunned by the ungifted, this skill is essential to survival. Orchestrating her own imprisonment to escape military duty has only honed her ability to deceive others. But when rebels start attacking the city, Lai is dragged back into the fight with a new team of Nytes.
Thrown together with Jay, a self-conscious perfectionist consumed by the desire to be accepted; Al, a short-tempered fighter lying for the sake of revenge; and Erik, an amnesiac hell-bent on finding his memories and his place in the world, Lai realizes she’s facing an entirely different kind of challengeone that might just be impossible. But if this team can't learn to work together, the entire sector will be plunged into war.
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 2.20(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
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SOMEHOW, SNEAKING BACK into prison is always harder than sneaking out of it.
The reasonable part of me knows it's because everyone's asleep when I sneak out at night, and that by the time I return in the early morning, the dreary gray building is already starting to wake. But the cynical part of me thinks it has more to do with how the guards would be only too happy to get rid of me and all too reluctant to take me back in.
Past the distant glass cover of the dome that separates the city from the Outside, the sky is already a weak gray, steadily infecting the clouds with shades of orange-pink. It feels like the whole sector is watching as I pick my way through the trees surrounding the single walled-in block of a building that is the prison.
Running a hand through my hair, I tangle the long brown strands into something resembling bedhead as I assess potential entrances. The barred windows are a no-go. I can usually sneak in through the warden's office, but she's probably at her desk by now. Which leaves the main entrance.
I hold back a sigh. Why do I have to do something so troublesome this early in the morning without any sleep?
I again ignore the reasonable part of me that says it's my own fault.
From the shadows of the trees, I scan the wall's perimeter, but no one seems to be around. I can't hear anyone's thoughts, either, which is a good sign.
I run to the wall and pause, back pressed against it, listening again for anyone's thoughts. The secretary is at his desk. On top of that, I'll have to be careful to stay out of sight of the security cameras. I know where all of them are — it's avoiding them that'll be the tricky part. Especially the one right by the entrance.
With the wall's cameras' blind spots in mind, I carefully scale the wall and drop down to the other side. No alarms sound.
Beyond that, there's no cover, so I sprint to the entrance. I have to be fast for the next part, before anyone comes in or out and sees me.
I grip the small infrared laser in my pocket and concentrate on the secretary behind the front desk. His thoughts are scattered, trying to remember all the things he has to do today. Report yesterday's prisoner checkups to the warden, arrange visiting time with Martin, call the District Committee to set up the monthly review meeting ...
This part is a gamble. My gift allows me to hear others' thoughts and pass along my own — usually when I want to communicate in secret — but when I put my thoughts in another person's head, it's obvious they're not his or her own. However, the secretary ispreoccupied, and he doesn't know to suspect that anyone might try to break into his mind, so I'm betting I can disguise my message as one of his own thoughts.
Don't forget, need to deliver yesterday's prisoner checkups to the warden before she gets in.
I feel the sudden surge of panic in the man's thoughts as he realizes the warden is already in for the day. I can't see the secretary, but I can easily imagine him shuffling through the papers on his desk, searching for the documents he doesn't actually need to deliver right now. His thoughts recede as he heads for the warden's office, never once pausing to question the madeup deadline I put in his head. If he didn't have so much to do, maybe he would've noticed it wasn't his own thought.
Honestly. Sometimes Etioles don't even think to suspect things that are obviously strange. A Nyte never would've fallen for a trick like that so easily.
When the secretary is safely gone and I can't hear anyone else nearby, I remove the infrared laser from my pocket. I need to be precise and fast before anyone comes.
There's a single security camera hanging over the front desk that's pointed toward the entrance. After all this time, I know the position of it well. I crack the front door — hopefully slightly enough that no one watching the surveillance feed will notice — and carefully aim the laser at the camera lens.
There's no surefire way to know if I hit my mark. If my aim is even slightly off, they'll be able to see my face.
But from around the corner, I hear the thoughts of an approaching guard. I need to go.
I open the door just wide enough to slip through, careful not to make a sound as I shut it behind me.
Keep the laser steady on its mark. Get out of here before the guard comes.
I'm almost there.
The guard's almost here.
In the same instant the guard is about to round the corner into the front hall, I leave the camera's range. I shut off the laser and bolt into the next hall as quickly and noiselessly as I can. I don't stop moving — careful to skirt the remaining cameras — until the guard's thoughts are far behind me.
Once I'm far enough away, I stop to catch my breath. No more staying out past dawn again. This is way too much of a hassle.
When my breathing is back to normal, I make for the hall that'll lead to my floor.
My worn shoes pad silently over white-and-black-patterned tiles, passing wards upon wards of other prisoners. Well, I say prisoners, but this place is hardly a top-security facility. Most of the people here have only committed light crimes.
Their thoughts drift toward me, two dozen voices crowding in my head, and it takes more effort than usual to block them out. It's always harder when I'm tired.
I stick to the shadows and corners and focus all my attention on my surroundings, but I don't see anyone else.
Some security. Then again, what normal person is going to break into prison?
Then I turn a corner and run straight into one of the guards.
We both stumble back. How did I not hear him coming? Did I accidentally block his thoughts out along with all the others?
I scan the hall for an escape route, but there isn't one. There's nowhere to go, and even if there was, I've already been identified.
"Cathwell," the guard says, eyebrows slanting down over small, too-narrow eyes. I think his name is Jacobs. What's the demon doing wandering around? His bald head shines like a light bulb in a hall already oversaturated with what can only be described as interrogation lights. He rubs his pudgy arm where we collided.
The thoughts I had been working so hard to keep out of my head before rush in with my panic. They press against the insides of my skull, blocking out everything else, even my own thoughts, until I fight them down and reach for my usual calm. When I've finally got everything back under control, I blink and find the guard is watching me with a mixture of expectancy and annoyance.
"Sorry, did you say something?"
"I said, what are you doing out of your room?" Exasperation coats his words, but this isn't an unusual exchange. Everyone in the prison knows me as being perpetually distracted. They just don't know why.
"You're not supposed to leave your room without an escort."
"You're here now. Will you be my escort?" The more I speak, the more my initial dread lessens somewhat. I can do this. I've been doing it for two and a half years. This is the same as any other day. If I can just get him to think I was so out of it that I wasn't intentionally breaking the rules, everything will be fine. I am, after all, the resident eccentric.
Jacobs shakes his head. His eyebrows are dangerously close to merging with his eyes. "Listen here, freak. The only reason we allow you any amount of freedom is because you're an ex-soldier. If you want to keep that freedom, you're going to have to follow our rules."
I tilt my head. "Soldier rules? Salute. Fight."
"Not soldier rules. Prison rules."
He clicks his tongue. "Who's your primary guard? I'll need to tell him you went out after I've taken you back."
My mind scrambles. If my guard finds out I was gone, and then the warden, I'll be put under watch. I might not be allowed to leave my room anymore, ex-soldier or not. Sneaking out to the Order will be nearly impossible.
No choice, then.
I put a hand to my chin and squint, pretending to think. "Omar Khan?" He freezes. "What?"
"My primary guard," I say. "Was that his name?"
I know perfectly well it's not. That my primary guard is a withered old man named Hallows who seems more suited to be a physician than a guard. But after two and a half years of constantly overhearing everyone's thoughts, I'm well aware that Khan is a good friend of this man, and, should push come to shove, he'll protect his buddy. Someone who allowed a prisoner to wander out of her room and alone in the prison is sure to get in serious trouble. Especially when that prisoner is an ex-soldier and a Nyte.
Jacobs searches my face with doubt and barely discernible distress. If I tell anyone she went out on her own, it's just going to come back on Omar. Punishments for letting an assigned prisoner escape are harsh. "Are you certain that's your primary guard?" he asks.
"Maybe?" If I say it as a question, it's not technically a lie.
She's never done anything like this before, has she? Isn't her record clean? Maybe if I let her off the hook just this once ... He glares at me and thinks and continues to glare at me and think. Finally, he says, "Look, you can't be going out on your own. Since this is the first time and you've got a good track record, I'll let it slide just this once and escort you back to your room. But if I ever catch you sneaking around again, you can say goodbye to all of your privileges."
I have to hold back a sigh of relief. I lower my eyes and try to appear as remorseful as possible when I say, "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
We're not far from my room, so the walk is short. And with a guard escorting me, I no longer have to worry about being seen. Only a little farther and I'll be able to relax.
It feels like a miracle when Jacobs drops me off at my room without further incident. He goes on his way, intending to reprimand Khan for letting his ward out, and I slip in a thought that no, it wasn't really his fault, it was just an accident, it might be better not to mention it.
I don't know if he buys the thought like the secretary did, but it'd be better if he didn't bring up my little escapade with anyone. Especially since I don't want him finding out Khan isn't really in charge of me.
With the door firmly shut behind me and locked from the outside, I let the exhaustion I'd been holding back until now sweep over me. Finally made it.
Right. I'll make some quick notes about the intelligence directives I need to send out, maybe review the supplies count from last night's meeting, and then —
Someone knocks on my door. The sound suffocates in the dead air.
My heart jumps up my throat. Did Jacobs come back? Did he tell someone after all? Am I going to be put under watch?
The door opens. It's my actual primary guard, Hallows.
He doesn't look angry, but I'm too exhausted from the long night out and the break-in and dealing with Jacobs to be able to concentrate enough on his thoughts to know for sure. I'll need to recharge before I can focus in on individual thoughts again.
"Good morning, Miss Cathwell," Hallows says. "How are you feeling today?"
I guess I should count myself lucky that the guard assigned to look after me actually respects that I was once a soldier. He doesn't treat me like a prisoner, but rather like a patient.
Not that it means I'm going to act any differently toward him. I stare at him blankly.
A long pause later, he shakes his head. "Well, maybe you'll feel better after meeting with your visitor."
My head snaps up. Who would come to see me? I haven't had a visitor since I entered this prison two and a half years ago.
Curious now, I let Hallows lead me back into the hallway. I wish I could focus enough to read his thoughts and find out who came — I'm not exactly fond of surprises.
The hallway is bathed in sunlight and patterned by the sun-dappled shadows from the trees surrounding the prison. Long black lines cast by the bars on the windows form a sharp contrast against the indistinct shades. The smell of mold wanders the corridors.
We walk down a maze of identical hallways and staircases until we reach one of the rooms off the lobby. It's a small, circular space with two couches facing each other across a coffee table. The wall paintings are obnoxiously bright colors, reds and oranges and yellows with shades of neon green.
Sitting on one of the couches is a tan, square-faced man in his early forties. He stands, smiling, as we enter. His black hair has more streaks of gray in it than the last time I saw him, but he still has that same strict, straight-backed stance and upward tilt of his chin. "First Lieutenant Cathwell. It's been some time."
My heart thuds up my throat. I throw a salute while trying to rearrange whatever expression is on my face into something neutral. "General Austin."
"Why don't you have a seat, Miss Cathwell?" my guard says.
I sit down on the couch across from Austin and the general says, "Thank you for escorting her." When the guard remains standing by the table, Austin adds, "I can take it from here."
"But, sir, I need to stay to monitor —"
"That will not be necessary."
The general's tone leaves no room for argument, and after a few tense seconds, the guard leaves.
As soon as the door closes, I straighten my back and try to smooth the wrinkles out of my prison uniform. I even try to fix my hair.
Austin doesn't bother trying to hide his amusement at the shift. His eyes soften. "It's good to see you again, Lai. It really has been too long."
Despite the fact that I'm a Nyte and he's an Etiole, despite all the trouble I've put him through these past many years, his expression is as kind as what I imagine a real father's to be like.
It takes more effort than I would've expected to hide how happy I am. "You're telling me. What are you doing here? And where's Noah?"
"That's it?" Austin asks. "No 'Good to see you, how've you been?' No saying how much you missed me?" I raise an eyebrow.
"And Noah isn't always with me."
"Fine, fine. He left for Sector Two a few days ago on a mission from the High Council. He likely won't be back for some time."
"Are you sure you'll be able to manage without your second shadow around?"
Austin cracks a small smile. "Well, the office is already looking a bit messier without him to keep things organized."
"A bit. Right." Austin's version of "a bit messier" is pretty much equivalent to a freak tornado running through someone's office. For his own sake, I hope his assistant returns from his mission soon. "So? If you're here after all this time, something must have happened."
His smile remains, but something about his expression changes. It tempers my happiness at seeing him again. "Well, I hadn't planned on cutting straight to business, but if that's what you prefer." His eyes hold mine. "I want you to come back."
Silence stretches between us.
"Come back?" I repeat.
He sighs and leans against the couch as his gaze drifts to the window. "Last week, a group of civilians transporting supplies to another sector was attacked and killed by a group of rebels. It's the first time they've killed nonmilitary personnel. The High Council has decided to act." He waits for me to say something. When I don't, he says, "If we don't destroy the rebel Nytes' organization soon, this may well turn into an open war. Before they get any stronger, we have to stop them." His hands fold together. "As I recall, you're quite the officer."
I shake my head. "You can't be serious."
"I assisted you in leaving the military over two years ago. Don't you think it's time you returned to help?"
"If the military wasn't so hell-bent on keeping Nytes in its service, I wouldn't have needed your help in the first place," I say. The only way for a Nyte to leave military service is by dishonorable discharge or death. The latter didn't really fit in with my plans. "But yeah, thanks for helping convince everyone I committed a crime so I could be put in prison. I really appreciate it."
"Regardless of how or why it happened, the fact of the matter is that Sector Eight is in a precarious situation right now."
I level a solid look at him. "You know why I wanted to leave the military."
He is, as ever, unfazed. "I do. I am aware that the military doesn't treat the gifted as it should. But I also know we both wish to see an end to the rebels who want to kill all ungifted. Wouldn't it be worth putting aside our differences for this? Besides, you must be going crazy being stuck in here, so far removed from everything."
I resist the urge to bite my lip. Austin isn't aware of the fact that I sneak out of this prison all the time, nor does he know about the existence of the Order. I'm not exactly stuck here. But it's true that being on the inside of the military, the very heart of information on the rebels and the sector in general, would be incredibly beneficial. It'd be a big help to the Order in particular. Especially with my gift.
"Why ask me to come back now?" I say to buy time. "The rebels have been around and threatening to kill all the ungifted for over two years."
Now that I've had some time to recharge, I could read his mind to find out, but Austin is one of only two people whom I swore never to use my gift on. Albeit, at the time, I swore to him and Noah more out of necessity than out of any respect of privacy. It was one of the conditions for Austin adopting me off the streets.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Soldier and a Liar"
Copyright © 2019 Caitlin Lochner.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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I wasn’t sure what to make of A SOLDIER AND A LIAR at first. It starts off slow and the characters are difficult to relate to, but I’m glad I stuck it out. The story and character development really picks up at about the 50% mark and takes off after that. Lai Cathwell is 17-year-old superpowered soldier. She and fellow young adults, Al (Johann), Erik (Mendel), and Jay (Kitahara) form an unlikely team of enhanced humans known as Nytes, on a mission to take out an elite squad of rebel Nytes determined to overthrow the Etiole government. While Nytes have powers, they are shunned for them, treated as second-class citizens at best. Lai wants acceptances and equality for Nytes, while the other three each have their own reasons for accepting the mission. With four different motivators, to say they’re a team would be a massive overstatement. Trust is hard to come by and suspicions run high. As their leader, Jay wants cohesion and solicits Lai’s help to make that happen. The more Lai learns about her teammates, the more she both likes them and distrusts them. But they’ll be forced to work together, whether they like it or not, to prevent all out war. Plot I think the primary plot is about the mission and stopping the war, but it feels more like it’s abut the relationships between the four Nytes as they get to know each other and grudgingly begin to trust one another. The action scenes are really well done, but they don’t drive the plot as much as the interpersonal scenes do. And it’s those scenes that made me care about the outcome of the action scenes. There’s also a budding romance between Jay and Lai always simmering just below the surface. This relationship came across as forced initially, but as with the rest of the book, it hit its stride about halfway through. The Characters The characters are my favorite part. Watching shy, socially awkward Jay try to navigate his attraction to Lai, Lai’s heavily armored exterior giving way to friendships, Erik’s selfishness giving way to something more, and Al’s standoffishness meld into someone I could identify with was what made this story really work for me. The author has created deeply authentic characters that are initially tough to get to know, but evolve with time at the same pace for us as they do for Lai. By not trying to force us to care early on, the author does us a favor and allows the reader’s feelings to grow organically as the story progresses. There are a lot of secondary and tertiary characters, who only make sporadic appearances, so I found myself flipping back to reread the scenes where they were first introduced. Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A SOLDIER AND A LIAR 1. Scene setting. The author has a way of bringing her settings to life in this world where people live in underground sectors to protect them for dangers above ground that only Nytes can survive. The descriptions are so vivid, I had no difficulty immersing myself in this world. 2. Friendships. The relationships between the characters develop over the story, so that the reader builds the same relationship at the same time as the narrator. 3. Super powers. This isn’t your typical superhero story, but the powers the Nytes possess are no less fun and shape the story as much as anything else. 4. Equality. Whether it’s Sneetches with stars upon thars, the color of one’s skin, or being a Nyte or Etiole, everyone wants to be seen as equal, and this classic theme is well done. 5. Lai. She’s fierce, independent, and just v
After reading the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on this book, and I was not disappointed. Lai's world is broken into two sorts of humans, those with powers and those without. Those with powers, the Nytes, are shunned, mistreated and mistrusted. Although Lai, a Nyte who is a telepath, was a top solider in the military of the normal humans, she was thrown into prison thanks to a small crime. She sneaks out and secretly works for the Order, a growing underground society which strives for a peaceful life for both types of humans. When the military comes and asks her to return in exchange for her release, she's not sure she wants to, but realizing it's a chance to gather more valuable information for the Order, agrees. But after begin back in uniform, she soon discloses secrets more dangerous than she suspected. In some ways, this book reminded me of the X-Men but placed in a futuristic world with a heavily split society. And it worked. Lai is an easy character to root for. She's tough, she carries loads of secrets, she's clever, she carries doubt of her own skills at times, and she has a good compass for knowing right from wrong. Her dedication to her friends is inspiring, and her ability to win people over...although not always through the best means...makes her hard not to like even with a few sharp personality corners. It's easy to root for her and those around her, especially with the situation of the Nytes pulls at the sense of needed justice. The pacing in these pages is pretty fast, guaranteeing a grabbing read with lots of surprises. There are levels of intrigue, some just dabbed upon and leaving the promise of excitement to come in the rest of the series, and secrets around every corner. Everyone has a history, and everyone has an agenda. It makes for interesting characters and a plot which is hard to decipher at times. While there is a little romance, it by no means carries the plot but rather lays in very slight dabs with the rest of the story. In these pages, friendship is golden and team work is not simple, but inspiring all on its own. Fans of super humans, fast paced action, intrigue and fighting for justice in an imbalanced society...and girl power...are going to enjoy this tale. I received a complimentary copy and was so engaged in this story that I couldn't put it down.
A Soldier and a Liar by Caitlin Lochner is a pretty good read. It's a bit disturbing, as well. It's pretty obviously young adult, as there isn't a lot of graphic description of violence and the small bits of romance are definitely small. However, there's the seemingly ever-present issue in dystopian novels that is the basis for the whole novel--Us vs. Them. Lochner does a pretty good job of twisting the impact of nuclear fall-out to her own story. She introduces a fairly stnadard idea with small changes and details that make it new. The people live in domes, but there is a new generation of people who don't need to. While the governments focus solely on the military applications of these people, there is another group that focuses on equality and peace. The whole thing is kind of 'kumbaya' and a bit over-sweet. Obviously, our MC belongs to the hippy-dippy crowd trying to create world peace. What's not so obvious is that our MC is not a white knight. She's more of a grey knight. And that makes her infinitely more likeable, in my eyes. I think the biggest thing that tripped me up throughout the story is how difficult it is to guage ages. Obviously, all Nytes are teen or younger, but Team One usually comes off as much older. Given the ages at which they joined the military, that shouldn't be so surprising. However, Lochner makes sure to intersperse little totally kid/teenager moments to remind the reader that Lai and pals are NOT 30+ years old, despite their demeanors when it comes to war and life. While occasionally, these moments shake the reader, most of the time, they serve their purpose. Not only are you supposed to feel outrage at the Nytes are treated as lesser, but Lochner sends little reminders out to play on the reader's sense of humanity. Casual references to Lai's previous service, references to their sexual inexperience, and moments where the characters are nothing BUT teenagers in attitude and bearing serve as harsh reminders that the world they live in is not our own--that this is not an UF, but a post-apocalyptic dystopian story of a group of people who just want to be people. Lochner did a great job of portraying the disparities in the groups, but I would have much rather seen her show a bit more of the characters' personal reactions. I feel like there should be quite a bit more outrage by the Nytes and on behalf of the Nytes. They're the first Gen, and yet...it's like this prejudice and segregation has been around for centuries. There's a level of acceptance in the Nytes that just doesn't add up to humanity and society in general. Overall, the story was really good and I'm interested to see just how Lai and the gang are going to escape their fates...and what they're going to do once they do that. There were definitely parts that drag and that made it harder to just sink into the story. A solid 4 stars.