Previously in Everybody Go Buy This: Nella Larsen’s Passing.
Hello! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go out and acquire for yourself a copy of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince (Amazon | Indiebound). It’s okay if you can’t help but hear Martin Prince singing “Summer Wind” in your head every time you think about the name of this book; that’s normal.
You might find yourself unready to commit to another YA novel set in a dystopian, semi-totalitarian future that runs on human sacrifice, but I can assure you that if you are only going to read one dystopian YA novel about human sacrifice this year, you ought to make it this one. (I haven’t read Divergent; can someone tell me if it’s worth adding to the list? Is it better than The Summer Prince, or should I leave it alone? Bear in mind I am but an occasionally reader of YA before telling me what to do.)
In the 17th century, fugitive slaves founded a free community in the mountains of northeastern Brazil. They called it Palmares. Contemporary accounts describe the courtyards and the fountains, the churches and council meetings of that sprawling settlement, which survived for decades before a concerted military effort by Portuguese colonists wiped it out in 1695.
Fast-forward several centuries, past a nuclear apocalypse that has scrambled climates and countries, and we come to the founding of Palmares Tres, the great pyramid-shaped city on a Brazilian bay, where author Alaya Dawn Johnson sets her new young-adult novel, The Summer Prince. Founded and ruled by women, the city ascends in tiers — from the algae-farm slums at its base to the queen’s quarters at its tip — and it runs on a rich, strange mix of nanotechnology and archaic ritual.
The first queens of Palmares Tres devised a unique system of transferring power: Each woman can rule for up to two five-year terms. Every five years, the city elects a Summer King, who rules for one year with all the charisma of a rock star — and then dies in bloody sacrifice, choosing the next queen in his death throes; a dying man’s choice is thought to be incorruptible.
It’s got a floating pyramid city, blood voting, violent dance-offs, dark-eyed queens who murder dudes every five years, and a gorgeously nuanced queer love triangle. Buy it! Borrow it from a friend, or from a library, or steal it from someone who appears weaker than you, and then come back in two weeks and a bit and we’ll talk about it for AGES.
Note the first: It is not relevant, and it is also deeply sexist probably, to comment about an author’s physical appearance, so I will confine myself to the following: Alaya Dawn Johnson is as beautiful as the moon and I would go on seven voyages across seven seas to bring her back an opal pendant, if she asked me to.
[Image via Goodreads]
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.