I started writing this review over a month ago, and I still don’t think I can do a good job summarising my thoughts about this book, so I’m just going to go ahead and post this.
There are some books that haunt you for days after you’re done reading them, and The Best of All Possible Worlds is one of them.
Many science fiction novels tell stories of species-spanning conflicts, world-changing technologies, and boundary-stretching discoveries. These ideas are what attract many readers to sci-fi, and the Best of All Possible Worlds has its fair share of them. However, the biggest sense of wonder comes from its exquisite portrayal of a developing relationship.
The Sadiri home planet has been destroyed by an unprovoked attack, and some of them settle on Cygnus Beta, a world full of refugees trying to recreate their homes. The worst has already happened. There are probably spies trying to figure out how the attack was caused, starships trying to prevent the disaster, political scheming to gain power. This book does not focus on those people (although you’re very much aware that all of that is going on in the background).
Instead, it focuses on Grace Delarua, a Cygnian government employee and Vulcan-like Sadiri Councillor Dllenakh, whom she is helping with transitioning his people to their new world. They gradually fall in love – yes, this is a technically a romance novel, but it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read. I think that the romance grows organically from the situations and the characters; it’s not an end unto itself. Dllenakh and Delarua are very believable. There are very few romantic tropes – no instant hatred, no moments of irresistible physical attraction – just two people getting to know and like each other slowly.
Although Dllenakh and Delarua are the main focus of the story, there are a lot of other things that happen. We get to explore Cygnus Beta, whose libertarian policies have led to an enormous variety of societies – feudal, tribal and fantasy-like. We learn more about the history of the universe and the various worlds. The supporting characters are well-fleshed out and grow over the course of the book. Even though most of the book is just an exploratory mission, the plot still advances and we get an exciting climax.
The only complaint I have is that the writing of the ending is somewhat cliché, I would’ve liked it to be as subtle as the rest of the book. That’s a very small quibble though, and overall, I can’t recommend this book enough!
The Best Of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
Del Rey, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.