Title: Nyxia Unleashed
Author: Scott Reintgen
Genre: YA sci-fi
Series: Book two of the Nyxia Triad
Pub. Date: July 17th, 2018
Synopsis: Getting to Eden brought Emmett and his crewmates one step closer to their promised fortune. But surviving Eden may be the biggest reward of all. Discover book two in the trilogy Marie Lu called, “a high-octance thriller.”
Emmett Atwater thought Babel’s game sounded easy. Get points. Get paid. Go home. But it didn’t take long for him to learn that Babel’s competition was full of broken promises, none darker or more damaging than the last one.
Now Emmett and the rest of the Genesis survivors must rally and forge their own path through a new world. Their mission from Babel is simple: extract nyxia, the most valuable material in the universe, and play nice with the indigenous Adamite population.
But Emmett and the others quickly realize they are caught between two powerful forces—Babel and the Adamites—with clashing desires. Will the Genesis team make it out alive before it’s too late?
Somehow, Reintgen has struck again with another powerhouse installment in the Nyxia Triad. If you remember from last year, Nyxia was one of my favorite reads. Although Unleashed didn’t quite hit me as hard as book one did, I certainly had a world of a time reading about Emmett’s journeys on the perilous and unconquerable planet of Eden. As for the title of this post, you can probably guess it’s 100% a joke because the Genesis crew definitely does not spend their time relaxing by the pool or sightseeing in this book!
Spoiler alert for book one, but Nyxia Unleashed picks up immediately where book one left off, with Emmett blazing his way down to the surface of a new planet, where he and a chosen crew of other kids are sent to mine for the extremely valuable (and extremely unpredictable) substance nyxia.
To put it lightly: this book has some amazing, A-M-A-Z-I-N-G world-building! Reintgen clearly put so much thought, time, and research into crafting a futuristic planet inhabited by the complex, centuries-old civilization of the Adamites—or, as Emmett discovers, the Imago. When it comes to how the characters meet and interact with the indigenous people of Eden, Reintgen avoided all the obvious “alien” tropes and went way beyond surface level. He goes so far as to discuss the technology, food, clothing, native species, lunar astronomy, and history of the Imago people all in incredible depth. Towards the beginning, it’s even described how animals came to evolve on Eden in a slightly different process from Earth (being an environmentalist and animal-lover at heart, I absolutely loved that part)!
Given the skillful development of Imago culture, Reintgen incorporates a very timely and impactful discussion about colonization into the main storyline. He touches on how Babel disregards the native language and traditions of the Imago, choosing instead to insert their own narrative about an alien population. Reintgen addresses the issue so beautifully, he’s one of those authors that just gets how to write YA that is both extremely important and wicked fun.
“It is an odd habit of theirs. Naming what already has a name. We have overlooked it for decades, but if you truly want to know us, then we should begin with a proper foundation. Our people are known as the Imago.”
When it comes to the plot, there are so many layered mysteries and moving parts that all unfold individually, making for a super intriguing reveal about two-thirds into the book. I really had no idea what was going on until all the different pieces were added up!
And in true Reintgen style, Unleashed highlights the emotional effects of trauma and grief in teenage boys (also in girls, but very strongly in boys). I think it’s pretty rare to find a YA book that focuses on boys who help and confide in each other, I really wish we got to see it more! Overall, it’s easy to see how the aftereffects of the events in Nyxia do not go unfelt.
As sort of a side note, I really loved how nyxia as a substance is developed throughout the two books. I feel like we got to see a different side of nyxia in the hands of the Imago, versus how we saw it being used by Babel. I’m excited to see what other secrets we might uncover in the final book!
And unlike in book one, Nyxia Unleashed actually features a few different points of view! It’s very minimal, but really added more suspense—and humor—to the story.
Reintgen’s writing style is so lyrical that it sounds like poetry in some places, it has to be one of my favorite elements of this series. He has such a unique flavor and voice to his writing, I’m confident I could identify it if someone read a sample out loud! Let’s just say that I used an entire stack of sticky tabs in my book to highlight all the quotes I loved.
“The darker song stretches and grows and fills the gaping hole in my chest. It is broken bones and black eyes, dropped bombs and endless lies. A lifetime of injustices burn their way into an inferno.”
However, there were a handful of things that made Unleashed less enjoyable for me than Nyxia, the primary being a comparative lack of emotional tension. Since there were no high-stakes competition scenes, I wasn’t kept on the edge of my seat like I was in book one. I wasn’t rooting for a certain character to climb back up in the rankings, or crushed when someone lost a fight. Unleashed is really a book of discovery and contemplation, so I found the pacing to be much slower. I think if you’re aware in advance that book two has a very different feel than the previous one, you’ll enjoy it more than I did. I spent a lot of my reading time searching for a kind of action and excitement that just didn’t come as naturally in this narrative.
We also don’t get to see nearly as much of the side characters, since there’s a central group of four(ish) kids that carry the whole storyline. I would read 100 pages, and find a one-sentence mention of a random kid in the crew that I honestly had completely forgotten was there. We don’t get to learn anything new about the kids or where they came from, since the focus is on the Imago.
And finally, the romance. It was…not my favorite. Frankly, I just don’t think these books need a romance at all. Emmett’s relationship with Morning is founded on one tiny scene in the previous book, and the whole thing felt vaguely stale to me. Luckily, it’s extremely minor so it didn’t detract much from the story. Morning’s character in general rubbed me the wrong way, and although I love that she’s a woman of color in charge, she spends the majority of the book just being inexplicably “the best” at everything. She’s like a superhero with no realistic weaknesses, she wins every fight or challenge and is automatically the decision-maker in most situations. I would be able to accept it more if we got a reasonable backstory on just how she’s so good.
As for the ending, it was by far the most intense and captivating part of the book. The action scenes were awesome, and who freaking writes a last line like that?!
Would I Recommend This Book?
Well, DUH. Nyxia is one of my top favorite series, so if you haven’t started it yet, go get yourself a copy of the book that started it all! And if you’ve already read Nyxia, you’ll definitely want to find out what happens next.
Thanks to Penguin Random House/Crown Books for providing me with a digital advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read Nyxia? What are your thoughts on this series? Do you have any favorite YA sci-fis?