5 Stars to “RECOMPENSE” by Michelle Isenhoff

posted in: Book Recommendations | 0
In a nation built upon lies, the truth could mean freedom … or death.

Born into Capernica’s lowest social tier and not permitted to leave Settlement 56, Jaclyn (Jack) Holloway refuses to pour out her years in the local fish cannery. She gambles on the one chance available to her to advance–the high school Exit Exam. In a country that still keenly remembers the horrors of the Provocation, the period of unexplained disappearances that led to revolution, the smartest and strongest are richly rewarded in exchange for military service. Jack is adamant that her best friend, Will Ransom, join her in striving for induction.

But if Jack fails to pass the stringent physical standards and Will succeeds, she will not be allowed to see him again until his tour of duty is completed–in twenty years.

Meanwhile, the government has been keeping a tight lid on a new string of abductions. Jack’s Exam score places her in a position to aid Axis, a government organization charged with investigating events that threaten national security. The evidence leads her back forty-seven years, to a series of high-profile cover-ups linked to the Provocation. Blowing the whistle could place her in danger, but holding her silence means history will likely repeat.

And Capernica could never survive a second Provocation. 


I’m a huge Isenhoff fan. I’ve read her Asian-style dragon fantasy series and her Civil War historical novels, and every single time, I’m blown away by her skillful, lyrical use of language. Even knowing that, I wondered how all of her talent would translate into the dystopian medium. How could I have doubted for a second?! Oh my gosh, this book is beautiful and powerful, full of emotion and intrigue. It’s nothing like I imagined–and it’s so much better!!!

The title and the image on the front don’t really give useful clues, but this is the story of Jaclyn “Jack”, an orphan with a troubled past, who has come to place her hopes for herself and her adoptive family upon going “Military”–something only the most elite scholars and athletes can obtain in the highly regimented and oppressive society of Capernica. Things don’t turn out the way she’d planned, but she ends up exactly where she was needed most, and we learn that there is much more to her than a feisty, strong-willed young woman. I am super excited to see where Jack takes us, and how she and her new friends will restore hope to humanity.



Jack and her teammates at Axis have succeeded in stopping the widespread abduction of Capernica’s teenage girls and neutralized the operatives living among them. Now they turn their attention to uniting the nation against the Bruelim. It’s time to take the fight through the portal and make sure, once and for all, that the Provocation never repeats.

Even as they prepare, disgruntled Lowers hang on the brink of revolution. Their rebellion has the potential to split Capernica along its caste lines just when the nation should be pulling together against a common enemy. But how can Axis convey the importance of cooperation when they’re unable to tell the people exactly what dangers they’re facing? Forty-seven years ago, Governor Macron expressly forbid any investigation into the Bruelim and ordered the evidence from the Provocation destroyed. No one’s certain what she’ll do when she learns the files have been reopened.

Meanwhile, Jack remains crazy hopeful that upcoming Military maneuvers might once again throw her into contact with her best friend Will, while Ethan, her capable Axis partner, strongly hopes they do not. Neither she nor Ethan are prepared for the testing their partnership is about to undergo. Or the revelation of their most immediate threat.


What a gripping continuation of this series. Jack and Ethan continue their work with Axis and uncover plots much more nefarious than they originally expected. With twist upon twist, this story leaves you unsure of who to trust. Isenhoff’s language continues to be exquisite, the pacing affects my heart rate (just check my FitBit), and the intrigue … intrigues! I love the detailed elements of their training and combat, which never drag the story to a halt, but rather make me feel like I’m in the action. The love triangle also adds a layer of tension. All of the characters, focal and surrounding, have depth. There are no wasted words or scenes. Every line is needed. And gaaah! That final plot twist! I *thought* I knew how this book would end and set us up for the next one, but NO! Now I’m going to lie awake at night trying to figure out what happens next until book 3 comes out (today, please?)!!


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