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Noughts and Crosses was one of the most popular and powerful books I shared with students in my days as a school librarian, and its uncompromising depiction of racism assured that Malorie Blackman has a devoted following amongst a generation of young people. Noble Conflict will be enjoyed equally. It tells the story of Kaspar, an eager young recruit to the Guardians, who is trying not to rely on his parents’ reputation as Guardians before him. Kaspar is determined to make his mark and defend his world, which is beset by seemingly random but terrifying terrorist attacks by the rebels that live beyond the city. But he uncovers instead a horrifying conspiracy, which threatens all that he believes in. How far will he go to protect his world, when nothing is as it seems?

This is a thought-provoking story with a genuinely horrible twist; action-packed and well-paced. Kaspar is a good hero, and for once the Librarian (a figure much maligned in literature!) is also shown as both clever and cool. The ending hints at a possible sequel, but this stands well alone. I enjoyed the subtle critique of modern warfare transposed to a science fiction scenario, and teenagers will find much to get their teeth into here. Again, Malorie has shown that she has the power to make young people think for themselves – and from there, change the world. Rating: ***

Corgi, 2014, ISBN 9780552554626

 

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