Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli

Little, Brown. Jul. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780316448963. $28. Rated: Teen+. F
A U.S. Marine Corps squadron commander finds himself caught between following orders and giving in to a dark impulse to seek vengeance against a ruthless enemy in this ambitious new work from former marine Uriarte (Terminal Lance Ultimate Omnibus). Mining Lapis Lazuli has sustained remote villages in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province for thousands of years, so when the Taliban launch a campaign to take control of the region, the Afghan government quickly appeals to the United States for help. Operating out of a rough combat outpost assembled in the region, Sergeant King leads a platoon of Marines through villages few, if any, Americans have ever seen, hoping to win allies in their fight against a shared enemy. To discourage the villagers from assisting the Americans, the Taliban lashes out at them more viciously. As the brutality escalates, Sergeant King questions whether the distinction between civilized behavior and savagery is ultimately subjective.
VERDICT Uriarte’s attempts at exploring the ideological differences between members of the squad (especially between a self-described redneck and a Hispanic woman) are admirable but rely on slightly cliché dialog; the story works best as a tragic meditation on the value of honor and justice in a world ruled by violence. [See Prepub Alert, 12/3/18.]

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