4 out of 4 stars
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At the beginning of Forbidden Shadows, written by E.J. Dales, a mysterious gray-hooded man is lurking in the shadows. Readers realize we are in the future, and our protagonist, Asher Levi Smizik, a sixteen-year-old, was born on October 13, 2169. Asher lives in Willow Wood, a small estate in upstate New York, with other hybrid orphans – individuals who have been electronically augmented. Asher’s mother runs Willow Wood.
Hybrids are like humans in every way, except part of their anatomy is technology. Asher had an enhanced chip implanted in his limbic system when he was two, and he can remember all conversations word for word; he can also perform advanced calculations quickly and perfectly. He is friends with Timothy, a ten-year-old whose chip enhances his arm strength and leg speed, and Neon, whose chip enhances her vision. Neon is the closest thing Asher has to a sister; he considers her his best friend.
What I liked the most about this book was the author’s imaginative worldbuilding. For instance, North America became the first continent to turn into one single country, and besides it, Earth had nine other countries: South America, Australia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Eastern Asia, Western Asia, North Africa, South Africa, and Antarctica. Famine and wars motivated their union.
I also appreciated how the author weaves a creative plot in which there has been a hybrid civil war several years before, with “normals” opposing hybrids. Now the hybrids have to hide because there are hybrid smuggling rings and hybrid hunters on the loose; they capture the hybrids and take them to be cleansed. This conflict is at the center of the plot. Asher’s father, Liam Mrkonic (aka Chief because he is a Chief Hospital Corpsman), works for an organization called Earth Force Alliance (EFA). There’s also a mysterious figure, the Phantom Prophet, who fights to protect the hybrids. Trying to figure out his identity was gripping, but no spoilers are allowed!
Additionally, the sci-fi elements were noteworthy positives. For instance, I particularly enjoyed several mentions of the theory of wormholes connecting time. There’s a giant ship (the NAS Pocono) with interstellar drives (I-drives) that allow it to speed through space. The author does a great job of depicting the setting.
In closing, there’s no negative aspect worth mentioning, and I rate this imaginative book 4 out of 4 stars. I had fun reading it, and I strongly recommend it to fans of sci-fi and mystery. It has a few profane words in it, so parental guidance is advised.
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