The Infinity Courts, Akemi Dawn Bowman (Simon & Schuster 978-1534-456495, $19.99, 465pp, hc) January 2021. Cover by Casey Weldon.
It is not a spoiler to say that the protagonist of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s The Infinity Courts spends most of the novel dead. Nami Miyamoto is shot and killed by an armed robber in a convenience store by page 18 of the narrative. From that moment, she spends her time in turbulent and dangerous Infinity, the afterlife world of the title. Nami, who is presented as a nonaggressive, conflict-averse teenager, is very uncomfortable with Infinity’s drama and as she gets sucked more and more into the battle between good and evil (which has a lot of shades of grey), she finds herself increasingly unsure what she should do.
Combine all the moral issues with a framework of court intrigue that would not be out of place in a regency romance, and readers will likely find a lot here that seems familiar, with a few refreshing twists. The problem I had is that the author chose to move Nami out of her home and into Infinity so quickly, with only the first 18 pages to reveal relationships with her family and friends. This causes a problem later as Nami repeatedly makes choices based on her professed deep feelings for her family (especially her sister) but there has been little evidence of those feelings existing. In catering to the fast moving plot, the decision was made for Nami’s life to be left behind before the reader can know, let alone care, about the significance of what she has lost. Her family membersthus come across as plot conveniences rather than meaningful characters who had important relationships with the protagonist. As YA readers know, just because people are your parents or siblings, it doesn’t mean you love, or even care about what happens to them. The reader needs to know why they matter to the protagonist and that connection is missing in this title.
Infinity is in peril because of an evil queen, Ophelia, who is actually an artificial intelligence (AI) from the real world. Nami “knows” Ophelia from when she was alive and Ophelia functioned largely as a technologically advanced Siri or Alexa. Ophelia hates Infinity because it is a human construct (how it was constructed is unclear), and Ophelia hates humans because they enslaved her. (This brings in many moral questions for Nami about AI.) Ophelia and her four “children,” who are fashioned after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, control nearly every aspect of the afterlife, starting with the presentation of a pill to the newly dead. If that plot point sounds like The Matrix, it’s because it is. Take the pill, become a mindless drone for Ophelia and her family or somehow evade the pill, as Nami does, and live with the rebels in the Colony. From there, the humans plot and plan to kill Ophelia, take over Infinity and live happily ever after in the afterlife. Nami becomes key to their plans, and all sorts of undercover intrigue begins. There is one very effective twist in the final pages but, by then, readers will likely be a frustrated by how many times The Infinity Courts demands they suspend their disbelief. This is a creative novel, but I am not confident that it achieves what it sets out to do.
Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website: www.colleenmondor.com.
This review and more like it in the August 2021 issue of Locus.
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