The path west is long, but despite Selena’s progress, New Canaan is never far enough behind her. It was there that her parents were killed, forcing her and her little brother Simon to flee the tyrannical state. Now, New Canaan wants control over every last inch of America-That-Was. Only the Republic of California can stand against it—but not without the data stick in Selena’s pocket, rumored to contain vital information about New Canaan’s deadly new weapon.
As winter closes in, Selena races south in search of an open passage to the coast. She must pass through Nuevo Juarez, where a ruthless leader named Thorin has seized power. Selena runs afoul of Thorin’s men and is separated from her brother, captured, and auctioned off at the city’s thriving slave market.
Her only way out is through the Iron Circle, a fighting ring where the city’s most fearsome warriors pit their skills against one another. As the populace and Thorin watch Selena rise through the ranks, Selena earns a reputation she doesn’t want and the attention of man with the power to destroy her and what’s left of America-That-Was.
Iron Circle (Yellow Locust #2) by Justin Joschko
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Link to Goodreads:
Selena grabbed her opponent’s left wrist. His skin was hot and clammy, its greasy expanse flecked with patches of flaky, dry crust. Suppressing her revulsion, Selena brought the man’s arm up behind his back and, with modest but steady pressure, eased him to his knees. The man obeyed without struggling. Whatever spirit his disease hadn’t eaten away had been beaten out of him by Thorin’s strongmen. He was defeated before he’d even entered the Iron Circle. The least Selena could do was signal this defeat gently.
She laid him on the ground and pressed his shoulders into the dirt. He seemed to get the message, for when she released him, he stood slowly, nodded at her in uncomprehending thanks, and scuttled out of the circle. She imagined he wouldn’t get far and would likely face his punishment in some other form. There was nothing she could do about that, but at least she wouldn’t be the one providing it. In recognition of this resolve, she stepped back and raised her arms to the crowd, beckoning their ire.
The crowd obliged, hurling incomprehensible epithets and pounding their fists on the railings. Selena ignored them, summoning her inborne Seraphim’s hauteur. She set her eyes instead on the clutch of fighters awaiting their own bouts, scanning for an ideal target. There was no shortage of options, but Selena was choosey. It would have to be someone who appeared unbeatable, and he would have to be among Los Hermanos.
One presented itself almost immediately. The Hermano who’d gestured obscenely at her before the fight was now tapping his friend on the chest with the back of his hand, signaling his derision at the spectacle before him. She scoped the topography of his muscles, sized up his potential speed and power, noted points of weakness: long hair and beard for easy grabbing, an offset knuckle that would weaken his left jab, a peculiar slope to his jaw hinting at an old break. He commanded respect from his peers, which meant he was good—but also meant he was cocky. Selena was good, too, and no one here had seen her fight.
She approached him with casual strides, thumbs tucked into the waistband of her pants. He smirked as she loped over the iron circle and cleared the remaining distance between them. She stood uncomfortably close, her eyes level with his chin, gazing up with a defiance that denied the slightest difference in their sizes. He cocked his head to one side and spoke a query in Mejise. She knew it for a question for its rising cadence and guessed its derogatory nature by the simian guffawing of his compatriots. In response, she smiled, took his vest in her hands, and noisily blew her nose into it.
The man’s smirk flattened into an ugly line. Its ends peeled upward a moment later, purporting a levity that didn’t match his eyes. He wiped his vest clean with one hand and flicked the snot from his fingers. Selena walked back into the ring, turned, and beckoned him forward.
Top 10 “Happy Feely” songs
I’m not really sure what a “happy feely” song is, so I’ve interpreted it as upbeat songs that pump me up.
1. Pop Song – Jesus Lizard: The most high-octane two minutes ever recorded. David Yow barks, growls, and shrieks atop blitzkrieg bass and knife-strike guitar licks.
2. The Great Curve – Talking Heads: Byrne and the gang are at his funkiest here, with layered grooves and intertwining vocals. A rare guitar solo caps the track, highlighting Byrne’s infrequently showcased skills.
3. Zombie – Fela Kuti: Hard to choose just one Fela Kuti song, but this is a good contender. Opens with quintessentially plinky afrobeat guitar, and the rhythms build from there.
4. Under the Big Black Sun – X: It feels strange to classify this song as “upbeat,” given its subject matter, but there’s no denying Billy Zoom’s guitar licks, or the emotion Exene Cervenka wrings from the lyrics.
5. Walking on the Moon – Lucia Pamela: Brilliantly demented. The instrumentation sounds like a jazz band playing in (and possibly recruited from) a lunatic asylum, as Pamela rasps out a list of animals she encountered on the moon, capping each with boisterous sound effects.
6. Search and Destroy – The Stooges: Raw Power indeed. This track contains in its modest length the seeds of all punk rock.
7. Captain Beefheart – Electricity: Before venturing to the outer musical cosmos, the Captain showed that he could play blues with the best of them. Electricity sounds like a Howling Wolf perked up with just a hint of LSD.
8. Gamma Knife – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: The brightest spot on an already brilliant album. Driving guitars, wailing harmonica. Killer through and through. The music video is fun.
9. Fully Completely – The Tragically Hip: A howl of poetic feeling. This song may very well contain Gord Downie’s most impassioned vocals, and that’s saying something.
10. Astronomy Domine – Pink Floyd: Spangled psychedelia from Barrett-era Floyd. I find it a little irritating when critics act like this is the only Floyd that matters, but that’s not to deny Barrett’s gifts.