Seventeen-year-old Jack Scatter doesn’t understand his newfound telekinesis. He can manipulate objects through “energy fields,” which is unique—though his universe does consist of Travellers, who “remember” future memories by connecting to an unknown source through the portal network, which is analogous to the Internet. However, sadistic Traveller Pieter Reynard destroyed the portal network in the previous installment, leaving the planet-sized space station where Jack lives, Cirrus, in chaos. With society breaking down around him, Jack needs to master his powers and stop Reynard before it’s too late.
John Harvey’s second installment in the Chronicles of Cirrus series begins with an action-packed introduction to Jack’s hometown, Fairview, as the destruction of the portal network has left society in shambles. People can’t connect to each other over long distances anymore, and nearly everyone in Fairview is jobless. BLUE SPELL’s pacing is strong throughout, with a good mixture of action and exposition that lets this series installment stand on its own. For instance, Jack’s internal monologues about Reynard make clear that he is a terrifying villain without empathy before he even appears on the page.
While details about the setting are initially scarce, Harvey rolls them out as needed to understand the nuances of the current scene, explaining the futuristic world in accessible language that is nonetheless comprehensive. For example, Jack explains that his powers (a telekinetic Force-like ability discovered in the previous installment) are “not magic”—rather, they connect Jack “to a computer system” that the protagonists struggle to understand. Furthermore, major characters and their relationships from the previous installment are clearly alluded to or explained, such as Jack and Sarah’s fragile romantic connection and how it continues to evolve.
Harvey moves from one heart-pounding scene to another as the stakes slowly rise, with both Jack and Sarah learning more about their respective powers (Sarah is a Traveller). There is an interesting twist of jealousy from Jack’s cousin, Ethan Marke, who—like Jack—received powers from the previous installment. Ethan resents that his “lucky coin” is temporary while Jack’s telekinesis is not.
The mystery is thoroughly plotted, as evidenced by abundant red herrings, false clues, heightening stakes, and palpable tension. One character in particular, Terrance, will keep readers guessing his allegiance. However, Harvey does over-rely on the Travellers’ future sight as a mechanism for foreshadowing: in one scene, Sarah knows that the villain is nearby because she “remembers” it, which is Traveller-speak for having a vision of the future. While this ability may sometimes act as deus ex machina, it is both unique enough and fallible enough to hold up.
John Harvey’s BLUE SPELL is an action-packed, multi-layered story that excels at merging hard science fiction, mystery, and YA romance into a page-turning futuristic thriller.
~Leah Block for IndieReader