Book Review: NINTH CITY BURNING by J. Patrick Black

J. Patrick Black’s debut novel, Ninth City Burning is brimming with potential.

**Minor Spoilers**

Ninth City Burning is a wonderful novel for fans of the science fiction genre. I must admit, science fiction is not my go-to genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed this.

The story centers on Earth centuries in the future. The human civilization is well into a 500 year war with an alien race, known as the Valentines. The aliens brought with them a weapon known as thelemity, a universe-altering force. A talented few of the human race have learned to wield thelemity to fight back against the Valentines. These few are trained in an elite military academy, known as the Legion, to prepare them for the front lines. As the enemy changes tactics, and the loss of the war is on the horizon, heroes rise to the challenge to give humanity hope.

Told from seven different perspectives, each character’s story is interwoven with others, but follows their own path. This style lets the reader see different aspects of society. Rae and Naomi are sisters who come from the wilds of Earth. They are considered primitive in Black’s universe, but are more like the people of today’s society. Jax is a boy who has grown up in the Legion, and because of his skill with thelemity has the weight of the war on his shoulders. Vinneas, Imway, and Kizabel, three friends who hold important stature in the Legion are pulled apart because of their different responsibilities. And then there’s Torro, a factory worker from one of Earth’s settlements who is thrust against his will into the Legion, away from the life he’s always known.

I would have liked to see more depth to the characters and more interaction between each other. I felt like the focus was on the world they were living in and each of the characters was just there to recite the facts. There was not a lot of emotion other than the impending doom looming over their shoulders. The only relationship that really captured my attention was the sisterly bond between Rae and Naomi. There was also a barest hint at romance blooming, but it did not come to fruition. We also don’t learn too much about the Valentines, they mostly remain a mystery and are rarely seen for the entire book. This is just the first book in the series, so I assume Black is using Ninth City Burning to establish his world and characters. We may have to wait for the sequel to see more development.

Black starts the book very abruptly; readers are thrown into a new world without any explanation. We learn the history of the world later in the book at the same time as some of the characters get clued in as well. Only people in the Legion really know about the war and thelemity. Most of society is still in the dark. It takes a while to get acclimated to the world (I was about 100 pages in), but things start to get pretty interesting. I found myself anticipating what would happen next!

The blend of science and magic was intriguing. I’d like to see more of that. Thelemity has a very magical quality to it in that you can manipulate the world around you. Although I’m still not sure I have a thorough understanding of it. A lot of the technical jargon went over my head.

J. Patrick Black’s Ninth City Burning is a solid debut. Science fiction lovers will enjoy diving into this new world where survival relies on the chosen few. I, myself am looking forward to a sequel in hopefully the not too distant future.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Ninth City Burning hits stores September 6, 2016.

Ninth City Burning

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