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This novel has a high learning curve. There are words for things that don’t exist in our universe and while the definition of most of them can be gleaned from the context, some were harder to understand. Thankfully, the author put a glossary at the back.
The worldbuilding is fantastic. Describing ships that can pass through things, universes contained within bubbles surrounded by rinds, and wonderfully diverse species. The author uses descriptive language throughout that’s both immersive and a bit overwhelming.
The story is relatively simple: Caiden’s world is in ruin. His family cares for livestock, which have all died. The people are rounded up and placed on another planet, one with nophek beasts that attack and kill all the people. Caiden runs and hides in what turns out to be a ship. There, he’s found by a crew that helps him get off the planet and to the Cartographers, which help him see who he really is.
During this, Caiden learns he’s a slave. He decides to kill the slavers as revenge for what happened to his family – his people, really – but he’s only fourteen and nowhere near in control of his emotions. Caiden sets out on a difficult path, learning that he’s more than just a slave, and is put in an acceleration chamber where he ages six years and receives augmented body parts and knowledge.
The story is concise enough, albeit a bit coincidental in parts. The narrative voice is rich and interesting, but a bit overdone in parts. I wouldn’t trim anything down though, this book is meant to be dense and rich.
There’s a sequel, but I’m not sure if I’m interested yet. I liked where this novel ended and see little reason to continue reading anything except for the delight of immersing myself in the world. The story of the next book will likely focus on the relationship Caiden had with Leta, who also survived the norphek planet (I did warn you about spoilers). My problem here is that I’m not invested in their relationship and don’t really care how they’ll play off each other. The author was a bit heavy-handed with mentioning Leta throughout as some kind of touchstone for Caiden and after a short while I was trying not to skim the parts that mention Leta.
Also, I was a bit confused about Leta and Caiden. He’s fourteen and she’s ten, but the author wrote the relationship with romantic underpinnings. He calls her his sister, once he learns the word ‘sister’ and the meaning, but she feels more like a pre-lover, or puppy love, or something. Even then, I didn’t feel a connection to their relationship at all, so I’m not really interested in reading a whole novel of their betrayal to each other, as it’s set up at the end of this book.
If you’re looking for interesting worlds, species, and ships, this is a good read.