The Drowned Cities

Paolo Bacigalupi. Little, Brown, $17.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-316-05624-3
Set in the same horrific world as Bacigalupi’s Printz-winning Ship Breaker, this superb, violent tale concerns “war maggots” Mahlia and Mouse, two kids trying to survive in an impoverished village not far from the tropical Drowned Cites that were once Washington, D.C. Life is a war zone, with gangs of marauders periodically sweeping the area—raping, pillaging, and forcibly recruiting new boy soldiers for their half-remembered patriotic and religious causes. When Mouse is taken by the United Patriot Front, Mahlia, who has already lost a hand to the war, makes a foolhardy rescue attempt, aided by Tool, a hulking, genetically enhanced half-man, a killing machine who has broken away from his masters. Tool still remembers “how he and his pack had run the streets under fire, blades and machine guns held high,” but finds himself forming a new pack of sorts with the determined Mahlia. Beautifully written, filled with high-octane action, and featuring badly damaged but fascinating and endearing characters, this fine novel tops its predecessor and can only increase the author’s already strong reputation. Ages 14–up. Agent: Martha Millard, Martha Millard Literary Agency. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
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