I have to start this review with a disclaimer: I know next to nothing about Star Wars, and it’s universe. I’ve never seen the movies, never read any of the other books – I know only as much as you pick up through living in this society with all the references and quotes out there.
That gave me a unique starting place to read this book from, and underscored the reasons I was interested reviewing it. To be able to “start at the beginning” for one thing, and secondly, to come at this work looking at it in its own merits, without the weight of “canon” or the full story coming behind me, as I’m sure many other reviewers will expound on.
Vivid. First and foremost, this work is vivid. I could see and understand everything the author was trying to show me in the worlds we were walking through. I saw and believed each species: I could see the height differences, the temperaments, the interactions of different backgrounds in the “melting pot” of the temples the characters travelled to. I was immersed in the environments brought before me, from the Great Journey over rivers, mountains, and desert, to riding in the customized ship through space. The air on Nox stung, and the strange pressures of the Chasm flooded out of the pages. Through all of these well-crafted images and sensations, my “suspension of disbelief” was complete. I was ready to hear and accept the story, and it did not disappoint.
I believed and mourned the downward decline of a brother who didn’t fit his family’s expectations. I understood the mentality of the sister who was trying to fight back against losing him. The split chapters between present day and flashback were done extremely well. I especially enjoyed the fact that the flashback was written in a completely different tense, so it added distinction, and gave it a bit more mystery than normal flashback scenes I have seen. The split story was also gripping. The reader knows what is going to happen, where it is going to end, but it still twists and turns, taking you by surprise, and keeping you engaged. There were no “throw-away” scenes, thoughts, or moments. I was never bored, or feeling like I had to push through a section to get back to the main plot. Everything intertwined perfectly.
My only argument with the book comes at a character-creation level, something the developmental editor in me loves to grab onto. I want to know WHY your character would act a certain way. Can you justify it? Can you justify it if they have not acted in such a manner at all until this point? Give me a believable reason, pass it along to the rest of your readers, and you will have an amazing story. That said, here is my question. Lanoree walks through a teeming market, noting the differing races, and remarking on some that are in the middle of religious rites. They are of a different belief from her, but she passes by them with a measure of respect, even though she does not agree. Her adult role is of mediator, of understanding both sides, and acting in the best interest of the worlds as a whole. As a child, she did not yet have this training, this outlook on those around her, and thus pushed her brother to accept her way. It was done in love, as she, overall, wanted the best for him, but she could not see his side. When she meets up with him again, she pauses, curious and contemplative, for a moment almost seeming like she wishes to use her new skills to reach a resolution. But the order from the Je’daii overrules, and she resorts to the same brash force she used back when they were children to get her point across.
Why would she be so open to allowing other species their beliefs that she didn’t agree with, but couldn’t allow her brother the same courtesy? And if it all boils down to the imminent danger of self-implosion, why did she not use her prowess as negotiator to try to touch her brother’s heart? To show him she could now allow for other sides of the argument, as long as it was for the greater good?
These questions are neither here nor there, but they are something to keep in mind for other writers out there. I greatly enjoyed this book, and I fully recommend it! I see Mr. Lebbon’s prowess in the writing craft as something others can learn from, but I would ask those writers to keep in mind, your reader will care about the characters you introduce them to – make sure to maintain consistency, or it will frustrate them.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.