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Matty Roberts
Author
Child of Etherclaw
The bonds of family go well beyond blood. But can those bonds hold when the blood itself carries a devastating secret? Fenlee’s opal necklace had always radiated a certain warmth since her mother’s death. But now, at sixteen, her world begins to unravel as the stone sparks to life, revealing itself to be an otherworldly artifact of untold power. Between her mechatronics studies at the academy and scavenging expeditions beneath the sprawling city of New Cascadia, Fenlee and her adopted brother, Elliot, try to decipher the mysteries of her necklace and its link to events in Fenlee’s past. But they’re not alone in their search. Strange undercity dwellers offer cryptic warnings, drones track their movements, and deadly corporate agents lurk in the shadows. When tragedy rips Fenlee’s family apart, she must learn to use the artifact’s power to save those who are deeply precious to her. But nothing can prepare her for the dark truths that she will uncover on that journey… “Lee,” Elliot mumbled. “I’m not who you think I am.”
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 8.75 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot/Idea: Roberts's novel is dark and grim, set against a dystopian world where low-tier living in New Cascadia forces Fenlee and her brother, Elliott, to scavenge to survive—while those lucky enough to inhabit the upper tiers are surrounded by green landscapes and fresh air, with seemingly anything they need for comfort. When Fenlee discovers the mysteries of her deceased mother's necklace, a whirlwind chain of events ensues as she vows to save her family, and the world, from destruction.

Prose: Roberts elicits deeper meaning without overwhelming readers, broaching topics such as identity, family, freedom, and individual choices. The style stays consistent and skillfully amplifies the imperfections in Fenlee's world, allowing readers both despair and hope as the story progresses.

Originality: Child of Etherclaw is immersive, and readers will immediately be swept into the protagonists' world—although the future of New Cascadia may feel bleak at best.

Character Development/Execution: Fenlee is a relatable protagonist, and her loyalty to family is admirable. Roberts generates an interesting cast, although some characters resort to clichés, which detracts from the novel's impact.

Date Submitted: August 18, 2022

Reviews
Roberts’s debut is an enthralling post-apocalyptic teen thriller. Spunky and quick-witted 16-year-old Fenlee will do anything for her family, though Fenlee and her adopted brother, Elliot, are mostly on their own: Fenlee’s mother died in an explosion when she was young, the same day they found Elliot, and their dad spends his days off-world asteroid mining for months at a time. All Fenlee has left of her mother is the opal necklace she always wore. But one day, when she and Elliot are scavenging for things to sell and run into a problem, she finds out there is much more to the opal than she ever imagined.

Readers of all ages will be immediately drawn in and feel connected to the trials Roberts’s characters face. In the beginning, Fenlee’s only focus is caring for her brother. She spends nights scavenging in order to buy food and days working hard in school to eventually get a job that will move her family to the higher tier. But when Fenlee and Elliott get in over their heads with brutal people chasing them and magical powers they don’t understand, they discover that new friends– and a cat that won’t leave their side–are more family than they’ve had in a long time.

Roberts’s world-building is immersive and natural. Readers will smell every smell, feel every touch, and experience the stresses of trying to survive the different tiers of New Cascadia, a world that exists only because of the assistance from aliens willing to clean up the damage done by humans. In their post-apocalyptic future, a new religion emerges and dangerously mixes with a formidable company willing to do anything for their secret science study. Readers who love found-family adventures will be thrilled as Fenlee tries to find her footing and protect her family at all costs.

Takeaway: An enthralling post-apocalyptic adventure where a tough teen heroine and her friends take a stand.

Great for fans of: Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, Veronica Rossi.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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