Ninth City Burning

Ninth City Burning

by J. Patrick Black


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101991466
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/06/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 1,253,507
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About 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.

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.

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Ninth City Burning 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it!
IrregularReader More than 1 year ago
The aliens came on Valentine’s Day. They didn’t come in peace, they didn’t offer to share their advanced knowledge, they didn’t even ask us to surrender. They simply, methodically, and ruthlessly began to destroy the planet. 500 years later, and humanity has fought the alien race, known only as “Valentines” or “Romeos,” to a standstill. Our success came by harnessing their own technology, a blend of mechanics and something very like magic called thelemity. But when the nature of the battle begins to change, humanity must adapt with it, or face extinction. So one of the cover blurbs for this book called it a mix between Harry Potter and Starship Troopers, so naturally I had to read it. (Confession time: I’ve never actually read Heinlein’s book, though I have seen the 1997 movie starring Casper Van Dien and (sorry) enjoyed it. I’ve been told that this makes me a bad person. I have no argument against that) So anyway, the book was pretty freaking neat. Yes, most of the central characters are teenagers, but we’re dealing with issues like sex, random violence, dismemberment, planetary eradication, and military discipline, so this really isn’t a book for the young kiddos. Black’s world building is generally interesting, though I will confess to a few eye-roll worthy moments early on. Fortunately, if you make it through the more goofy stuff in the beginning (I’m looking at you, N’workies), then the book really comes into its own. I especially liked the concept of thelemity, which seems like something you’d find in the Warhammer 40k universe. The futuristic-yet-strangely-arcane technology was consistently interesting and well used (and also well explained). The book is told from the point of view of several different characters, and Black does a great job of giving each their own voice (though some are more aggravating than others, especially early on). I also found it interesting that this brutal tale of war and loss was told exclusively through the eyes of children. Each of these kids has grown up in a state of perpetual war (ahem, sound familiar?), and so the sacrifices and the brutality that go along with such a state are taken, if not in stride, then as the way things have always been. I’m not sure if I enjoy this point of view or if I find it disturbing (probably a bit of both). So, if you like your sci-fi dark, and your battles with giant space monsters bloody, if you need more lasers, huge guns, and combat exoskeletons in your life, then this may be the book for you. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
NovelKnight More than 1 year ago
I think this might be the first book I've read involving aliens.  And it wasn't too bad. I think what struck me first was that Ninth City Burning seemed to have its own unique edge on the whole alien business. I'm not all that familiar with alien sci-fi, granted, but I liked how it brought in more fantastical elements, different dimensions, the various points-of-view drawing together this vast world.  But that's where it started having some issues. There's a fine line when it comes to character perspectives. Too few (when using multiple) can sometimes limit the world view, depending on how large of a world you're creating, but too many and it gets cluttered. This book fell more on the latter end of the spectrum and I think it would have gone better to step back and break the world down into smaller parts, exploring those in richer detail. I only recall a few of the PoVs used which just shows me the others weren't adding anything memorable.  Much like the characters, the world is blown up in full detail and I was ready to zoom out. Too many storylines, too much detail. Ninth City Burning felt like it was trying to be an epic fantasy in the sci-fi genre but didn't have the length to really warrant the heavy-handed descriptions nor the character development to expand the cast in a way to make ALL the PoV characters meaningful.  That said, I did enjoy parts of it. The first part, especially, hooked me initially and I kept a decently strong interest up until about a third of the way through. From there, it slowed down a bit and the ending became a chore. Yet I ultimately enjoyed the world, the story though it didn't quite shine through as much as the world, and some of the characters. This seems like the kind of book (and I don't say this too often) that would do well as a visual medium, where all those world-building elements are represented on the screen and the story can come into better focus. After all, the premise is fairly simple: alien attack. I just wanted more depth to it.  Not bad. Not great. Not sure if I'll read the sequel.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Five hundred years ago, on Valentine’s Day, aliens attacked the Earth. The power they use is called thelemity and luckily humans can learn to manipulate it. This ability has lead to the stalemate in the war with the Valentines. Those that are discovered to be able to work with thelemity are immediately send to be trained. Then there are those that are the soldiers that fight, that that work the factories providing resources, and those that want nothing to do with this war that are outcasts. This story revolves around several people, their places in this war, and how they are doing everything they can to survive and hopefully defeat the Valentines. This is a large world filled with lots of detail. We follow along with seven teenagers from the different corners of this new world. Each voice has their own perks, quirks, and individual reasons. I liked seeing the variety of people that now exist in this world. It was easy to follow along with each person since they were clearly defined. I will admit some were a little more annoying than others with their particular habits, but that is human nature. The first portion of Ninth City Burning has a lot of science and explanations as to what is happening and why. This is a bit dry and overwhelming at times. But if you stick with it the book gets better. Overall I liked this book. This is a big, new world and needs to be built which slowed the book down. Having said that, I liked the concept and the references to pop culture which had me laughing. I am definitely curious to see what happens in the next book. I received Ninth City Burning from the publisher for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
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.