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Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Selena Flood is a fighter of preternatural talent. But not even her quick fists and nimble feet could save her parents from the forces of New Canaan, the most ruthless and powerful of the despotic kingdoms populating America-that-was.
Forced to flee the tyrannical state with her younger brother Simon in tow, Selena is now the last chance for peace in a continent on the verge of complete destruction.
In her pocket is a data stick, the contents of which cost her parents their lives. Selena must now ensure it reaches the Republic of California—a lone beacon of liberty shining across a vast and barren wasteland—before it’s too late.
Between New Canaan and California stretch the Middle Wastes: thousands of desolate miles home to murderers, thieves, and a virulent strain of grass called yellow locust that has made growing food all but impossible. So when Selena and Simon stagger into Fallowfield, an oasis of prosperity amidst the poisoned plains, everything seems too good to be true—including the warm welcome they receive from the town’s leader, a peculiar man known only as The Mayor.
As Selena delves deeper into the sinister secrets of this seemingly harmless refuge, she soon learns there is a much darker side to Fallowfield and the man who runs it. Before long, she must call upon the skills she honed in the fighting pits of New Canaan to ensure not only her own survival, but that of her brother, in whom the Mayor has taken far too keen an interest.
And she’d better act fast, for an all-out war inches ever closer, and New Canaan is never as far away as it seems.
Why You’ll Love this book
I’m gonna be honest here: I really don’t know if you’ll love this book or not. It seems presumptuous to assume you will—there are plenty of books heralded as great or essential that I didn’t care for, so why should Yellow Locust be sacrosanct?
So instead, I thought I’d tell you why I love this book. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of them.
1) It has a kick-ass protagonist. Selena Flood knows how to bust heads. A seventeen-year-old street brawler, Selena is a pampered member of New Canaan’s elite Seraphim who scorned the posh gyms and gentlemen’s leagues of her native class in order to hone her skills in the roughest fighting pits of New Canaan’s slums. When her parents are executed for treason, Selena flees her homeland but takes her fighting skills with her, along with a data stick containing highly sensitive intel and enough anger to fuel a thousand brawls. It doesn’t take her long to find a way to put her talents to use on the road, for America-that-was is a dangerous place, and the most savage parts of it are those that pretend to be civilized. Which leads me to…
2) It has a great villain. Though driven by the threat of New Canaan’s impending war, most of Yellow Locust is set a thousand miles from the empire’s border, in a bucolic farming community called Fallowfield. With lush crops and well-fed citizens, Fallowfield stands in stark contrast to the lands around it, which unfurl with mile after mile of a blighted, poison plant called yellow locust. Running the show in Fallowfield is a man known only as The Mayor, a foppish figure with a charming smile beneath a pair of reflective sunglasses. He greets Selena and Simon warmly, offers them every kindness, but behind his mirrored lenses lurk unknown intentions. Erudite, devious, and ruthlessly intelligent, The Mayor is my favorite type of villain—the kind who’d sink a knife in your back if necessary, but would rather trick your friend into doing the deed instead, the better to keep from getting his hands dirty.
3) It has a lot of action. Street brawls, knife fights, ambushes, insurgencies—the world of Yellow Locust is a violent place. Not a great place to live, but a lot of fun to write about (and hopefully to read about, too!)
4) It took me a long time to write. Yellow Locust is a book ten years in the making, a cask-aged brew given ample time to mellow. The manuscript swelled to 150,000 words and whittled down to 90,000, shed plots and characters, survived a crucible of edits to emerge sleek and sharp and hard as steel. None of this might mean much to the reader, but after all that work, how could I not love the thing?
Anyhow, those are my reasons. I hope you agree, but even more so, I hope you pick it up and give it a chance.
About the Author
Justin Joschko is an author from Niagara Falls, Ontario. His writing has appeared in newspapers and literary journals across Canada. Yellow Locust is his first novel. He currently lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.