Review 4 star
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The Marked Ones is the first book in the Ghost Within fantasy series by Nickey T. Hawke. A unique young adult novel accompanied by numerous manga-style illustrations, the story follows a young leader of a squad of Swordmasters, the police of the self-sustaining City of Hope. Beyond the City, undead ghouls roam in armies controlled by a man who has gained immortality. The survivors of the war are forced to take a mark that will spare their lives, but turn them into ghouls if they die. The Marked Ones stream into the City as refugees seeking a better life—but the City views them as dangerous threats. When Gideon’s misfit squad is assigned to capture Marked Ones in an abandoned mansion, an encounter with a young woman smuggling in the refugees leads him to question the whole nature of his mission. With so many voices of reason on all sides, Gideon must find his way alone.
Nickey T. Hawke’s The Marked Ones has a rich moral and social complexity that goes beyond the world building of most fantasy novels. The themes of friendship, romance, revenge, and hope are woven into a detailed political picture as Gideon struggles to make the right decision. Will he let the Marked Ones go, allowing them a second chance instead of punishing them for their plight or will he fulfil his mission to protect his city? Those who aid the Marked Ones do not go unpunished. Amid a raid on a mansion with a hidden portal and an evil spirit in it, the views of those around Gideon—his outgoing friend, his earnest cousin, his bitter commander, and Kiera, the woman he’s falling in love with—add layers of tension that build from a quiet beginning to a tense, nail-biting conclusion. As much a profound drama on the human condition as an action-packed story, The Marked Ones stands out in a sea of young adult stories. Recommended.
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