The Family: The Brotherhood
By Donte M McNeal

Based in Michigan, Donte's Playground is a blog by Donte M McNeal. His posts range from nonsensical ramblings about anime, in-depth reviews of books and television/film, to random spurts of philosophical babble.

Neal Shusterman's "Star Shard Chronicles"

Neal Shusterman's "Star Shard Chronicles"

Neal Shusterman, is a YA writer, but I've only read one of his series. It's called the "Star Shard Chronicles." It's a series about a group of teens who are imbued with terrible physical afflictions and wonderful otherworldly powers. Okay, that's an oversimplification, but I promise it's s trilogy practically begging to be read! There will be spoilers. Now, let's get into it!

First up we have the first book in the series, Scorpion Shards.

First up we have the first book in the series, Scorpion Shards.

Scorpion Shards begins with Dillon, our teenaged ball of destruction and then transitions to Deanna, our walking, talking bag of fears. We see where they are in their lives. We see how they're struggling with the powers they have, how these powers affect not only them but those around them as well. Early on, you can see that these kids have suffered due to the powers that they hold, and the picture Shusterman paints is a stark one. That's exactly why the meeting between Dillon and Deanna is such a great one. It's a dynamic moment between two haunted characters, bogged down by oppressive and somewhat debilitating powers.

This is followed by the introduction of Tory and Winston. They suffer from a contagious and painful skin condition and regressive growth condition and paralysis powers respectively. Next we meet Lourdes, an obese girl who has been the subject of horrible ridicule for as long as she could remember, coming from both peer and adult alike. Then there's Michael, a guy who's presence causes others to lose their sense of self-control.

Once we get to meet everyone, we get to see their journeys, inexplicably drawn to one another. I found myself forgetting that these kids were teenagers seeing all the things they had to go through, and my heart broke on more than occasion for them throughout the book. You would think was a teen Shusterman himself with how easily he was able to put himself in the mindset of a teenager struggling with the powers and decisions these characters struggle with. He crafted a rich and immersive world with real and memorable characters, whose actions have lasting consequences.

You want to root for these young people to overcome their fears and shortcomings, just as much as you want them to beat the "big bad" of the story, but even the "big bad" has you feeling sympathetic towards them. There really is no clear cut bad guy, at least in my eyes, in this book and those are my favorite types of stories. You get the sense that this more of a coming of story for the Shards than anything, and in those stories, you make mistakes. It's just, when you're as powerful as these kids are, mistakes can be costly.

Book 2: Thief of Souls

Book 2: Thief of Souls

Thief of Souls begins with a stark look at the Bringer, the powerful being who taught "The Twelve" of the divine powers they held, and the consequences of that action. What I really enjoyed about this bit is that it puts a new spin on the gods of old (something I thoroughly enjoy). You see from this prologue of sorts just how powerful the Bringer is, and why he should be feared.

When we catch back up with antagonist turned opposite of the first book, Dillon Cole, he's on his mission to repair the devastation he caused while feeding his beast. It's a great sight but brings up the question: if he can reverse space and bring the dead back to life, does that also mean he restores their souls as well? If that's the case, then he's much more powerful than he himself knows, and at sixteen, that power could end up corrupting him. I mean, we all saw how he was in Scorpion Shards.

Speaking of the Shards, we get glances into the lives of all the remaining Shards and how their lives have changed for the better (for the most part at least). It was interesting to see how their abilities had developed and matured. Shusterman did a wonderful job showing their progression without it seeming like an info dump, and it came across naturally. I had forgotten that these kids were, well, kids; teens tasked with living with powers beyond comprehension and it shows in how they've used their powers since we last saw them.

The Bringer, our antagonist of the story is an interesting and compelling one. He/she(?) plays the part of puppeteer, planting seeds to pit the Shards against one another, and it's done so effortlessly you can't help but be impressed at the feat. Then again, as teenagers it doesn't really take much for that to happen. But that's not all who the Bringer manipulates. No, the Bringer is a master manipulator and you understand that fact more and more as the story goes on, and more people fall victim to his/her influence. A truly fascinating yet terrifying character.

Chock full of deception, inflated egos and a deadly psychological game of cat mouse. Kids turned essentially pseudo-gods in the eyes of others and all that that entails. Thief of Souls grips you and doesn't let go. I enjoyed this one much more than Scorpion Shards and that's saying something.

Book 3: Shattered Sky

Book 3: Shattered Sky

Shattered Sky picks up with Dillon allowing himself to be caught and profiled by an interrogator in order to heal said. It was fun to see just how easy it is for Dillon to read someone, but the conversation also serves a quick refresher for what happened to the Shards in Thief of Souls. His capture results in him being locked up in an unbelievably high-security prison designed specifically for him; this of course means that there is little interaction with others, which makes sense given his powers.

After the events of Thief of Souls, we saw the Shards become gods in the eyes of the world. Their powers have grown exponentially, and are now virtually limitless, and somewhat uncountable. They affect the world around them without even trying to. Thus is the magnitude of their power now. However, after the fallout of the Bringer’s manipulation, we are down to just three Shards: Dillon, Winston and Lourdes. Each of them are going through their own struggles after what the Bringer out them through, but I’ll admit that Lourdes is the one I think was affected the most by everything. She’s basically a puppet master now, robbing people of their free will with no sign of remorse whatsoever. She’s become drunk on her power, just as Dillon once was…

Speaking of Dillon, seeing his being imprisoned at a government black site is one of the more interesting parts of the story. He turned himself in because he felt he couldn’t control his power, but that backfired because it turns out that he’s being used as nothing more than a tool to heal old cronies and rich international government officials. What’s more, is even his powers aren’t being utilized, he’s sedated and locked up in a chair that mutes his abilities to perceive the world and those around him. That doesn’t stop the visons/dreams from haunting him though; he’s constantly haunted by images of foreboding future if he doesn’t find a way to get out of the person, and reunite with the other Shards and find a way to stop the vison from coming to pass. Add to that old and new enemies, and you have a recipe for disaster that only the combined power of the Shards can stop.

Ripe with emotion that you wouldn’t believe came from someone not in their teens (I mean, Shusterman writes the mind of teens struggling with otherworldly powers, doubts and responsibilities like no other!), plot twists, and new characters you can’t help but enjoy to love and/or hate, Shattered Sky is an explosive conclusion to Star Shard Chronicles if there ever was one. I’m glad I came across this trilogy. I’d definitely recommend it!

That Hunter x Hunter Greatness

That Hunter x Hunter Greatness

Netflix's Stranger Things

Netflix's Stranger Things