Title: Nyxia Unleashed
Author: Scott Reintgen
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
Version: ARC ebook
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Notable Notables: POC characters, Social class struggles
Recommended Readers: Fans of space adventures and high stakes
First of all, thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen. Nyxia was one of my favorite book discoveries for 2017, and now I’m delighted to say that the sequel did not disappoint. In fact, I extol its virtues and the trilogy as a whole to anyone reading this. That’s how much regard and faith I have in it, so please give it a shot if you haven’t already.
Obviously, if you haven’t read Nyxia, don’t continue reading this review because there are spoilers for the first book all up in this.
Nyxia Unleashed takes place seconds after the events of the first, with Emmett Atwater and the other Genesis victors hurtling down toward the planet Eden. Emmett continues to be an amazing protagonist with a definitive and much-needed voice in YA: he is a teenaged POC whose family struggles with poverty, which is a key reason why Babel, a shady corporation, chose Emmett and the other teenaged kids from around the globe to achieve their less than altruistic endeavors.
Upon landing on Eden, Emmett, Morning, Anton, Jaime, and the others have to deal with the immediate aftermath of Nyxia, where some of them were forced to fight and kill other Genesis members to make it down to the planet alive. Reintgen focuses on communication between the characters, something many authors fail to achieve with teenage characters especially for reasons I cannot fathom. Having Emmett’s POV there to add a deeper layer of realistic anger and gray morality was a bonus: a person can understand why someone else did what they had to do while being enraged by the choice.
It was this same exchange between the characters that made me realize I didn’t fully buy Emmett and Morning as a couple in Nyxia. Individually, their characters are amazing, and Morning is such a nuanced Latinx female character, tough and disciplined but also vulnerable and easy to joke with. Emmett’s continued interactions with her throughout Nyxia Unleashed managed to convince me. What helped immensely was how much Team Genesis was able to work together throughout the book, establishing a found family and pinpointing their real enemy as being Babel rather than being forced to view each other as obstacles to be eliminated. Being able to trust and rely on each other made certain character motivations clearer, particularly Morning and Emmett’s reciprocating feelings.
I loved also that Reintgen delved into Anton’s POV and focused on his relationship with Alex. These two became some new favs, and I found that it was explicit that they were in a gay relationship without anything becoming stereotypical or heavy-handed. They better reunite in the third book, or I will riot. Also hoping Reintgen knows about and avoids the “Bury Your Gays” trope, and if not, someone please tell him about “Resurrect Your Gays” immediately.
In the meantime, though, Anton’s own storyline was brilliant. Getting into Babel’s systems and wreaking unholy havoc as a “ghost” on the space station… I love this badass cosmonaut! And that team-up, wow. I won’t spoil it, but you guys are in for a treat.
Even with being told in first-person POV, Anton’s voice was still distinct from Emmett’s, something I was relieved to see because YA authors tend to struggle with multiple first-person POVs in that respect a lot. I don’t know about you, but it’s agonizing to be inside many characters’ heads and discovering they sound exactly the same. In times like those, I’d just rather the whole thing be written in third-person limited, my real preference, but maybe that’s just me. Fortunately, Reintgen handles his characters with surety and finesse, probably because he loves and respects them so much, and he respects the readers who could see themselves as certain characters.
Meeting and learning about the Adamites (real name: Imago) and their world at last was fascinating. Reintgen gave us a unique alien culture, focusing also on how to treat a different culture with respect, starting with calling them and their planet by their native names, not by the assignments that Babel gave them. It’s a smooth and well-represented way of condemning colonization and exploitation. I’d really like to get inside of Reintgen’s head about how he named the world, its moons, and the alien characters—Imago, Speaker, Bally, Magnia, etc.—because his choices were interesting.
Of course, the unknown of Babel’s real end goal and whether Team Genesis can rely on the Imago, allying with them over Babel, is what compels the tension throughout the novel. While not as strong as the tension and high stakes in Nyxia, this sophomore novel develops relationships in a steadier way and presents new mysteries for the next book to unravel, like the fates of certain failed Genesis team members.
The only part where the novel’s pace dragged for me was at the transition between the middle and the end, where Emmett and the others make their way through the final rings of Sevenset and meet one of the Daughters. I thought there was a bit too much exposition there on revealing truths and planning next moves that slowed the pace and dissipated tension and suspicion too quickly, making it not as strong of a book as its predecessor.
However, two things stand out at making it up: Emmett and Team Genesis’ treatment of the Imago in the sixth ring—the celebratory spitting in the face of both systematic oppression and how people condemn the impoverished— and that explosive ending (I’m still reeling from it). There’s no question that the next book is going to be a doozy.
However, as good a bean as Reintgen is, I’m still so worried about what he’s going to put us through because he is not afraid of killing off characters. I mean, he’s no George R. R. Martin, but still. So, I’m just going to sit here and brace myself and hold these books close and tell myself that everything is going to be fine. Because it is!
It is, dammit!