These Stolen Lives

These Stolen Lives

By Author / Illustrator

Sharada Keats



Age range(s)







Paperback / softback




A powerful dystopian thriller from a stunning new voice in YA, set in a world divided by race where life itself must be paid for if you want to survive... Filled with suspense and romance, ideal for fans of Noughts & Crosses, The Hunger Games and Shatter Me.

Six years ago, 17-year-old Mora survived the terrifying Skol invasion. They stole her land. They took her family. And now not even her life is her own. Skol culture revolves around one motto: Life is Golden. You must pay the government for the right to survive. If you can't, you're cast out at best - at worst, culled. Records of every citizen are held at the hallowed, highly secured Life Registry, which tracks who lives and who dies, who pays and who fails. Colonized survivors like Mora face endless servitude, repaying the 'debt' of their years lived before the invasion.

Mora is resigned to her fate, finding glimmers of joy in her tentative friendship with another repayer, the handsome, elusive Kit. But then she finds out that 12-year-old Zako, the closest thing she has to a brother, is to be put to death by the dangerous new Skol Governor. Finding the courage to fight back, Mora and Kit conspire to smuggle Zako to safety. But their plan draws them into a dark mystery - and to a heart-pounding mission at the Life Registry itself. They must ultimately ask themselves: what are we worth to each other?

Gripping, moving and suspenseful storytelling with a friends-to-lovers romance that crackles with tension. A girl driven by unthinkable grief. A boy targeted for his unimaginable ability. A compelling story exploring the power of hope, courage and connection from a stunning new voice in YA. A richly imagined fantasy world that illuminates topics of colonialism, racism and societal structures that demand productivity and disenfranchise the poor. 

"Utterly captivating... The world Keats has created is terrifyingly believable... Keats' writing was lush and evocative too." - @_ashortbooklover, reader review



Sharada Keat's debut dystopian YA novel These Stolen Lives is a complex narrative about living in a world following the invasion of the tyrannical Skol people. Friends and 'repayers' Mora, a Crozoni, and Kit, a Makaian, toil to pay for the first pre-colonised years of their lives. Mora cares for the draught kines for the glassworks where she works and Kit serves a myriad of customers in the bar, also his home, the Lugger.

Their tough life becomes almost immediately worse when their younger friend Zako Taler is accused of visciously attacking the Skol Governor of the New Western Counties, Magistrate Valour Venor. Mora feels fellow Crozoni, Zako, is as near family as she has left following the invasion and with Kit's help agrees to a perilous plan to smuggle him out of the country. The capture of the best forger in the country changes their plans and instead, they must uncover the mystery of their oppressors at the centre of the Skol government, the impenetrable Life Registry.

These Stolen Lives is beautifully written, rich in detail and full of information about the community and culture. The reader can imagine the world through the vivid description and the lyrical language used by the Skol people which contrasts well with the tension and suspense of the story. The themes of oppression and racism are explored by the author but balanced by the courage and resilience which Mora develops as the narrative progresses.

This book, whilst essentially a thriller, is also a story about friendship, loyalty, and first love. Students will find it thought-provoking and emotional in equal measure. Highly recommended.  I should add that Jamie Gregory has illustrated this book with a beautiful, haunting front cover picture melding (I imagine) Mora with the land she loves.

464 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Ruth Cornish, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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