King of Bad by Kai Strand
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (186 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe
Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he’s recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA. He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?
It’s not easy to learn how to become a bad guy.
I was fascinated by how the Super Villain Academy worked. The students there have an extremely wide variety of powers so the instructors had to use some fairly creative methods in order to create lessons that worked for everybody. Several of my favorite scenes focused on showing what these methods were and how the students reacted to them.
This story had such a large cast of characters that I had trouble keeping track of who everyone was and what kinds of abilities they were learning to control. It would have been helpful to either get to know a smaller number of characters much more thoroughly or to have some kind of reference page to look back on when I needed to refresh my memory. Some of their abilities were truly amazing. I wish I could have been able to learn more about them.
The world building was nicely done. This was an incredibly complex culture in certain ways, yet it was explained so clearly that I always understood what was going on. What I liked most about the world building was how slowly and naturally it unfolded. Not everything was revealed right away, but the most important facts about how this society works were shared with audience when they needed to be.
There were issues with the ending. It’s tone and themes were nothing at all like what had happened earlier on. I had trouble adjusting to such an abrupt change in so many different parts of the tale so late in the plot. It would have been really helpful to have more clues about what was coming before the last few scenes so that the transitions to them could have been smoother.
What I liked most about the fight scenes was how clearly they were explained. There was quite a bit of action going on in some of them, but I could always visualize what everyone was doing in them because the author spent so much time showing the audience what was happening. In some ways I felt more like I was reading a comic book during these scenes than reading a novel because of how easy it was to imagine every single attack and defensive move.
King of Bad should be read by anyone who really loves stories about the dark side of super powers.