Nick Harlow spent more than a decade as a television news reporter and anchor. His work has taken him from the floors of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to Ground Zero in New York to Jay Leno's backyard. His stories have been seen on NBC, ABC and CNN, and he's been honored for his work by AP and UPI. He is also the co-author of a non-fiction book on the television industry.

In addition to his political thrillers, he is a HarperCollins author writing romantic comedies & young adult novels as Nic Tatano.

The Ascendant by Nick Harlow

In the year 2577, government controls everything.

And Joan of Arc is a kick-ass sixteen year old redhead.

Skylar Hawkins is a teenager with no future. Because she has no past. Confused? You shouldn't be. When you run a society based on pure equality, it's best to erase all evidence of ambition. Five hundred years in the future, a group of elites known as The Providers has wiped out history and taken their world view to the extreme. Equality is paramount, eliminating jealousy and sympathy. Choices do not exist for our heroine. Her occupation, her future husband, the number of children she may have, are all decisions belonging to The Providers. Even food and housing are the same for everyone. Ambition is pointless.

Problem is, Skylar has it in spades.

When Skylar finds a relic from a society that supposedly never existed, her inquisitive nature takes hold. The spunky teenager digs deeper and discovers life outside the Provider-controlled community; one where choice and freedom are sacred. A concept that lights a fire in her, one she wants to bring home. Skylar is chosen to lead a revolution, to help her community ascend to a life of liberty.

She's The Ascendant.


Revisionist history seems to be more commonplace these days, but imagine a future world in which all history has been wiped out. The Ascendant follows a teenage girl who discovers the truth… and then has to fight to the death to share it. – Nick Harlow



  • "Like a runaway roller coaster, hard to put down. A must read for today's young adults. Enlightening & thought provoking."

    – Amazon Review
  • "Very different from this author. I could see a movie series in the future. Entertaining."

    – Amazon Review



The silver disc washes up at my feet. I brush off the sand, revealing something I'm certain is forbidden by The Providers. Something that makes my green eyes grow wide while my heart rate spikes. The face of an older man, words and numbers that make no sense. Rows of even ridges around the edge. It's a little more than an inch in diameter. I turn it over and see the outline of a bell surrounded by more unfamiliar words.

"Skylar! Time to go!"

I look up and see my mom waving at me, then she points to the large digital clock on the building next to the beach. A Monitor is already ushering people into the transport. We only have a few precious minutes left of Reward Time. I close my hand around the silver disc, shove it into my pocket and head toward her. "Sorry, mom. Lost track of time."

"You find some nice sea shells?"

"Not really." I tighten my grip around the disc. I don't want to lose it. And I sure as hell don't want a Monitor to see it. The penalty would be… well, last time someone was caught with a forbidden object, that person disappeared.


"Maybe you will at Reward Time next year."

"Maybe so."

She reaches up and runs her fingers through my long copper tangles. "You'll be sixteen in a few days, probably getting too old to search for shells. You're already a head taller than me."

"I love the beach, Mom. I don't think I'll ever get tired of searching. It's like a treasure hunt."

"I know. You love the challenge of discovery. Always been the curious one in the family." She leans up and kisses me on the cheek. "Hope that never goes away."

I rub my thumb across the silver disc in my pocket, around the ridged edges, wondering what I've stumbled upon. What it it? Where did it come from? Whose face is on it? And how can I find out what the writing and numbers mean? This cannot possibly be something created by The Providers.

My next search will not be for sea shells.

As usual, the trip home in a Provider transport is deathly quiet. After a week of sun, surf and unlimited food that actually has flavor, a return to fifty-one weeks of drudgery and meals that taste like cardboard are not exactly inspiring to any of the dozens riding in what amounts to a long steel box. Meanwhile, it doesn't help that the transport has no windows. Why, only The Providers know. I've always wondered… is there something along the way they don't want us to see? What's between here and there during the one-hour trip? There's that curiosity thing rearing its ugly head again.

I feel the transport slowing down, and reach for my suitcase with one hand while keeping the other in my pocket tightly wrapped around the disc. Movement stops, the silver doors slide open, the salt breeze I'd grown to love is replaced by the industrial stale air from the steel mill rushing in. My face drops at the sight of our community; endless rows of three bedroom square houses, all exactly the same. Same color, all white, and same style. Same size plot of land with artificial grass in the front yard so "lawns" always look perfectly manicured. And you're not allowed to add anything to your yard or decorate your home in any manner. If you didn't know your number and row, you'd be totally lost.

They're not homes, but storage containers for people.

Equality is paramount for The Providers. No one can have anything better than anyone else. Doesn't matter if you work hard, or put in more effort at school. Everything must be equal due to what they call a "redistribution principle." Everyone has two children, a boy and a girl, born one year apart. Everyone marries when they turn twenty-two, their spouses chosen by The Providers. My destiny is the same as that of everyone else.

Choices do not exist. Neither does hope. Incredibly, most people accept things the way they are.

I refuse.

Because it makes me angry. Always has, but more so as I grow closer to Assignment Year.

That's when The Providers tell you what your occupation will be for the rest of your working days. Regardless of how you performed in school. Without any consideration for your intelligence level or what you might want to do. Or what you might excel at.

None of this makes sense to me. And that makes me ask a recurring question.


Mom, Dad, my fourteen-year-old brother Sam and I leave the transport and trudge down the street a few blocks to our assigned house. My stomach is already growling, missing the unlimited food I desperately crave. During our week of Reward Time I try to pack on as many pounds as possible onto my five-foot-eleven inch frame. The standard family food allotment from The Providers is simply not enough for a family with a teenage girl my size who has a voracious appetite. I'm one hundred and forty-five pounds of solid muscle with shoulders broad as my father's. Mom and Dad try their best to share their own portions. There are no exceptions for those who might be bigger than average. Equality, remember? So while no one is fat, it's a bit of a curse to be tall and well-built. I often wish I was petite because I know somewhere there's a ninety pound, five-foot-tall fifteen year old girl who doesn't clean her plate. But sharing between families is forbidden.

And that ticks me off as well.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm ticked off about a lot of things. A lot of things that don't make sense.

Which is why I ask a lot of questions.

And curiosity plus bad attitude equals… well, I'm not sure. It's not something of which The Providers would approve, so I keep quiet.

I don't want to disappear forever.

But as I clutch the treasure in my pocket my heart pounds with excitement. The minute we get inside our home and close the door I drop my suitcase, pull my fist from my pocket and turn to my parents. "I have something to show you. Something that washed up on the beach when I was digging in the sand. Something I cannot explain."

Mom and Dad smile, the blue eyes of my brother light up, all probably thinking I'm going to reveal some spectacular shell I found. My parents' smiles vanish as I open my hand.

Sam runs his hand over his short dark hair as his eyes grow wide. He points at the disc. "What is that?"

I shrug. "Don't know. Mom, Dad?"

Dad shakes his head as he takes the disc, turns it over and examines it. He bites his lower lip as he hands it to Mom, giving her a serious look.

Her dark eyes become pools of fear as she runs her fingers over it. She says nothing.

I put my palms up. "Well, what is it? It's something bad, I can tell from the look on your face."

Then my mother tells me a legend about a time before The Providers. A time I didn't know existed. One not in the history books.

A forbidden story.

A story which makes my blood run cold.