The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond


only thing to fearThe Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
Scholastic, 2014.

Many decades ago, the Nazis crushed the Allies by using genetically enhanced “Anomalies” and now occupy Western Europe and the Eastern United States, and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is controlled by the Soviet Union, Japan and Italy. Since the death of her mother in an unsuccessful Alliance uprising in Virginia, 16 year old Zara and her uncle have been laying low, but the brutal execution of one of their neighbors, and a visit from one of the rebels’ leaders brings them back into action.

I found the speculative setting slightly odd. Though the current Fuhrer is Hitler’s great grandson, there seems to have been very little progress since the 1940’s, which felt unrealistic, particularly since, in 1942, Hitler’s scientists managed to create a person who can fly. (And, yes, there are shades of Robison Wells’ Blackout series).

Zara herself is a rare Dual Anomaly – her powers are inherited through her Japanese father – she can control the air and generate lightning. And she has (of course!) a love interest – a good German. You can tell he’s on the right side, though, because he has green eyes with flecks of gold, rather than the cruel/steely blue eyes of all the other Nazis. Zara takes her time to trust him and, unexpectedly and delightfully for a dystopian heroine, eschews a kiss in favor of the mission. Don’t worry, the snogging is only delayed a bit.

The novel takes a bit of time to get going, as the world is being established, but it does build up a head of steam once Zara and co. join the Alliance, and the climactic missions are cinematically thrilling and satisfying. Many threads are left loose enough for a sequel, though, equally, it works as a standalone.

The Only Thing to Fear is a straightforward and exciting piece of alternate history, and though I didn’t find the setting entirely credible, I think it should appeal to middle graders who enjoy dystopias and action.

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