A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Continuing story inspired by Victor Hugo's Les Misérables may inspire fans of movie or musical to read the book, or compare this version with original. Some words and phrases in French with context clues, and a lot of words are derived from French, like "Laterre," or written with French-type suffixes, like "cruiseur" for police cruiser.
Trying to bring about change by violent means causes more death and destruction; seek justice and accountability instead. Life is full of battles; sometimes you're better off not fighting them. Refusing to engage in battle and instead working to build world you want to live in is more productive kind of opposition. Inner demons are worth confronting, because left unchecked they can turn you into your own worst enemy. Other positive messages about not judging people by their pasts but by what they're doing now, working together, never giving up, seeing things through.
Positive Role Models
Main characters, all older teens, are now fully awakened to deep, systemic problems of their world, want to change it for the better. But they're battling a sense of betrayal that keeps them from making best choices or seeing bigger picture. As Marcellus, Alouette, and Chatine start to work through their bitterness and fear, they learn from each other and from others what's worth fighting for, and to work together and use each individual's strengths to accomplish goals.
Violence & Scariness
Riots and fights with punching, kicking, bones breaking, fantasy ray gun-type weapons that can kill or paralyze (they're also used as bludgeons). Blood and pain are described briefly but without much gore. Characters are frequently in intense danger from being pursued or in large-scale disasters. Description of dead bodies is grotesque but not gory. A man is beheaded with a laser-like guillotine. Past physical abuse mentioned. A cage-style fight is horrific, mentioning blood and briefly describing two men fighting hand-to-hand to the death. Some injuries and pain described, along with losing consciousness from pain.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A same-sex couple is seen kissing at their wedding festivities. Attraction and romantic thoughts are briefly mentioned. A past, passionate kiss is remembered several times but not described.
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Extremely poor young women sell their blood in places called "blood bordels" and are referred to as "blood whores."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink at parties and celebrations. A plot point involves a champagne fountain at a ceremonial toast. Mention that poor people drink "weed wine." A character is drugged to unconsciousness. A villain uses a "vapor pipe."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Between Burning Worlds is the second volume of the sci-fi System Divine series begun with Sky Without Stars and loosely patterned after Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. At a hefty 688 pages, it's best for strongly independent and highly motivated readers. There's a list of characters at the beginning to refresh your memory or get you up to speed if you didn't read the first volume, but appreciation of the world and the characters will be much deeper if you read them in order. Violence is mostly fights and riots with mention of blood, injuries, pain, and sounds of violence but no gore. There's one horrific description of a cage-style fight between to men to the death. Large-scale destruction like factory explosions causes death and injury, and characters are frequently in intense danger of being captured or killed in crashing space ships, etc. Sexy stuff is light, with some romantic feelings, a past remembered kiss, and a same-sex couple seen kissing at their wedding. There's also very little language of concern, except the term "blood whores" to describe young women who sell their blood. Overall messages are positive about teens learning to work through their sense of betrayal, what battles are worth fighting, and how to work together to change the system they're living in.
Is It Any Good?
This epic sci-fi series sequel keeps the excitement, adventure, and action coming while even the quieter moments remain compelling thanks to the three strong, well-developed protagonists. The unique world and imaginative tech continue to expand as Marcellus, Chatine, and Alouette make new friends and alliances while traveling to new and fully realized locations, including a moon and another planet. Not easy to do over the course of a whopping 680+ pages, but co-authors Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell manage to pull it off.
Parallels with Victor Hugo's Les Misérables are still here, but they're a bit looser and farther apart now as classic sci-fi elements like cloaking technology and space travel come to the forefront. Violence is a bit more frequent and intense, but with little gore. Teens will relate to the three main characters as they work through feeling betrayed by everything they knew before, learn how to navigate a quickly changing world, and figure out which battles are worth fighting and why.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.