New Earth follows the first manned Earth mission out of our solar system, an expedition to the surprisingly Earth-like planet Sirius C. When the explorers arrive at “New Earth”, they find much more than expected – intelligent life, and scientifically impossible similarities to Earth. And as they struggle to unravel this mystery, Earth is undergoing its own catastrophes.
The premise of the book was pretty exciting – first contact with a mysterious planet and its uncanny inhabitants. However, the book itself was not very good, mainly because of its characters. I definitely understand that classic sci-fi sometimes doesn’t have the most fleshed out characters, instead choosing to focus on the ideas and plot, and I still enjoy it. New Earth‘s characters were almost comically bad, though – the author seemed to have tried to humanise them by giving them flaws and problems, which take up a lot of the book, but are really stereotypical and badly resolved. For instance, the leader of the expedition, an acclaimed diplomat, is distraught over the death of his wife, which he feels responsible for. All his angst vanishes when he meets his first native girl, with whom he develops a passionate romance instantly, ignoring all concerns from his team. You would think that with his extensive diplomatic experience and his grief for his wife, he wouldn’t go completely native over the FIRST woman he meets… but, no. Most of the other characters have similarly dumb plot arcs, and these arcs take up most of the book.
Aside from these terrible “character growth” plot points, the exploratory team’s behaviour at New Earth doesn’t really make sense. After an eighty year journey to get there, most of the team members seem to favour giving up and returning to Earth as soon as there’s more to the planet than they expected (“there’s nothing in the mission protocols about this!”) Also, wow, humans must be ridiculously arrogant to assume that their orbital telescopes could definitely tell if there was life on the new planet – mission protocols should have covered the possibility. The scientists show no signs of curiosity, and are in general so indistinguishable from each other that their specialty and ethnicity has to be mentioned in almost every sentence they’re mentioned (Longyear, the Native American biologist, Thornberry, the stereotypically Irish roboticist). I’d be so ashamed if human first contact with aliens was with that team.
I didn’t realise that New Earth was part of Bova’s “Grand Tour” series (this is the 21st book set in the same universe), but I found it perfectly approachable as a stand alone. The worldbuilding aspects of the book intrigued me enough that I do want to read more of Bova’s books set in this universe – the glimpses of what was going on in Earth and the other human colonies hint at a rich history. I’d be reading them more to get a sense of his vision of the future, though, and not because I expect them to be good books.
First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview! I really enjoyed Replica; I often get frustrated with the formulaic dystopian young adult genre, but Replica was a breath of fresh air. I haven’t read anything by you before, but I saw that you’ve written a lot of series’ already – what makes Replica new and exciting for you?
Thanks for inviting me!
There are a lot of things that make REPLICA new and exciting for me. One of the things I really love about the series and that made it so fun–and challenging–to write was the juxtaposition of a futuristic world suited to science fiction with a society that is based around a more historical concept of hereditary monarchy. Both the idea to write about exact replicas of human beings and the idea to write about corporations functioning as hereditary monarchies had been floating around in my head for a long time, and it was only when I mashed these two seemingly ill-matched concepts together that an actual story began to form in my head. I also loved writing about a careful, hyper-responsible heroine and a reckless, immature hero who have to grow up in different ways–Nadia needs to loosen up and learn to take some chances, and Nate has to grow up and learn to pay attention to the consequences of his actions.
How long is the Replica series going to be – will it be a trilogy? Do you have plans to revisit the world after the series is done, or is this just Nate and Nadia’s story?
This is a trilogy. The second book, RESISTANCE will come out in March 2014, and the third book, REVOLUTION will likely come out sometime late next year, though a date has not been set yet. I have no firm plans to revisit this world when the series is done, but I do have a germ of an idea for something that might happen in a different state, so it’s always possible.
What book(s) are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on what we writers jokingly call a “Sekrit Project.” Generally, the term is used to refer to a work that is not under contract, and therefore one we can’t talk about publicly. Yet.
What do you find to be the easiest and the hardest things about writing?
The easiest thing about writing is writing first draft material when everything is “clicking.” When I know exactly what I want to do with a scene, and the words are coming out fast and furious, and I’m so anxious to finish the scene that I feel no temptation to get out of my chair and do something else. That’s pure bliss. It feels almost like reading a book you’re really in to, when you can’t wait to find out what happens next. It makes the days when writing is a total slog feel worth it. And there are plenty of days when writing is like slogging through mud. The hardest thing for me is diagnosing the reason why I’m struggling in those periods. Sometimes, it’s just because I’m not in a good mood, or I’m tired, or I’m distracted. Times like those, the best thing for me to do is to keep slogging. I may not enjoy what I’m writing, and I may need to do a lot of editing on it later, but at least I’m moving forward. But then there are the other times, when I’m struggling because I’ve made some misstep in the narrative. There’s something “off,” but I don’t know what it is yet. And what’s hard is that I don’t always know the difference between the two when I’m in the midst of it. If there’s something wrong, something I need to go back and change, then continuing to slog forward does me no good whatsoever and just leaves me with more time not enjoying my writing.
It’s gotten a little easier over time for me to figure out whether I’m struggling because of some temporary malaise or whether I’m struggling because there’s something wrong with the book–for example, if that malaise stretches over a few days without letup, it’s a good bet there’s something wrong–but I still sometimes have trouble knowing whether to push through or stop and go back.
Worldbuilding fascinates me, so I’d love to know how you approach creating a world, since you’ve created several.
I often come up with my concepts for a world before I have an actual story to set in it. I have a big picture already created in my head, with very few concrete details. I then come up with my basic storyline, and I begin filling in the gaps of my world, developing some major details that have immediate relevance to the story I’m telling. When I actually begin the writing of the first draft, that’s when I have to start figuring out the smaller details. It’s kind of like I’m looking at my world through a camera lens. At first, it’s little more than an impressionistic blob. When I’m plotting, it comes into a little clearer focus, and I can see major landmarks. But it’s not until I’ve finished the first draft that the picture is fully in focus. Doing my worldbuilding in layers like that is very helpful for me and gives me an enormous amount of freedom. I don’t commit to details until I’m sure I need them–and I’m sure they won’t cause me problems later on in the draft, or even later on in the series.
As an example, with REPLICA I started out with a really big picture idea for what the world was like. I knew the society was stratified, that the story would be set in a futuristic New York, and a little bit about the history of how the United States turned into the Corporate states. When I started plotting the book, I decided the three classes would be the Executives, the Employees, and the Basement-dwellers, with the Executives being like royalty, the Employees like ordinary people, and the Basement-dwellers the poor and unemployed. When I started writing the sample chapters for submission to publishers, I focused very tightly on what life was like for my main characters, coming up with the societal expectations that were placed on both of them. They are Executives, members of the highest of the three strata of the society I created, and I worked on the details of Executive society–while having only a blurry vision of what society was like for the other two classes. I didn’t need details for the other classes yet, so I left them vague. When I got to my first scene set in the Basement, that was when I started pulling together details for what the Basement was like. That was when I decided what the buildings looked like, how the residents dressed, how the territory was divided up. In a later draft, I would seed some of the details back in the earlier parts of the book where I’d left things vague before, but by waiting until I needed the details to flesh them out, I avoided writing myself into any corners and making decisions I would later regret.
What themes do you like exploring in your books?
Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to see the themes in his or her own books. In a lot of ways, theme is in the eye of the beholder. That being said, I do feel that I have some themes I tend to revisit, even though I’m not making a conscious choice to do so. One theme I’ve explored a lot in my adult books is that of redemption and hope. Many of the characters in my adult books have dark pasts, either because of bad things that have happened to them or bad things they have done. I love taking these characters who could so easily spiral down into misery for the rest of their lives and finding a way to redeem them and give them hope. I want the message to be that no matter how bad your past, no matter how many bad things have happened to you, it’s possible to have a fulfilling and happy life–but it’s up to you to get yourself there.
I don’t particularly see that theme popping up in my YAs (though it’s possible it’s there and I just am not aware of it), maybe because my teen characters just haven’t lived long enough to sink to the depths some of my adult characters have. With the YAs, I definitely see a theme of taking control of and responsibility for one’s own life. This is particularly true for the heroines of my two teen series. In the Faeriewalker series, Dana spends a lot of time feeling powerless, feeling like a pawn in other people’s games. (And to some extent, she is.) But over the course of the series, she learns to recognize her own power and through that gains a kind of emotional independence. There’s a moment at the end of the final book, SIRENSONG, when Dana thinks: “I might be in the room with two of the most powerful people in Faerie, but thanks to my unusual magic, I was one of the most powerful people in Faerie, too.” That do me was the endpoint of Dana’s character arc, the point where in many ways she became a full adult.
I definitely see some of the same theme in Nadia’s character arc, although she has a different set of problems in that her choices involve so much risk to people she loves. In the beginning, she’s almost crippled by her need to protect her loved ones by doing what those in power tell her to do. As for where she goes from there . . . Well, you’ll have to read the whole series to see.
Your website’s tagline is “Romance with an attitude, fantasy with an edge”. Could you elaborate on that?
My first published books were paranormal romances (the Guardians of the Night series, which is being re-released in 2014). I have a love for characters who have a sarcastic sense of humor, which might not be the first thing people think of when they think of romance novels. Hence, “Romance with an attitude.” The second series I wrote was the Morgan Kingsley series. It has some romantic elements, and my heroine is certainly a queen of sarcasm, but it didn’t really fit into the romance genre, so I decided to modify my tagline to include it. The Morgan Kingsley series is by far the edgiest series I’ve ever written (with scenes that make me hope my teen readers don’t pick it up), and that’s where “Fantasy with an edge” came from. I have not modified the tagline since I started writing YA, partially because it would get cumbersome, and partially because the tagline I have still applies to some extent to my YA books. There is certainly an edge to the REPLICA series.
If Replica was made into a movie, who would you want to play Nate and Nadia?
Embarrassingly, I am completely clueless when it comes to questions like this. I’d say it’s because I don’t watch enough shows with teens in them, but I don’t do very well answering this question about my adult books, either. I guess I just don’t think in movies.
It is 2283 and Earth is very different. First, aliens (known as Builders) set down a space elevator in the city of Darwin, Australia, and a few years later, they released a plague that decimated humanity. The only safe zone is a nine mile plague-suppressing radius around the space elevator, and so Darwin is the last human settlement on Earth.
The Darwin Elevator is an action-packed and entertaining book. We mostly follow Skyler, the captain of a scavenger ship whose crew is entirely immune to the plague, and Tania, a brilliant scientist who’s come up with a theory concerning the Builders that could be world-shattering. When Tania’s research needs data from long-forgotten laboratories, Skyler’s team is sent to retrieve it. But as they work on solving this increasingly urgent mystery, the delicate political balance between the city of Darwin and the inhabitants of the space station is crumbling, and their time is running out in more than one way.
I loved the worldbuilding of the Darwin’s Elevator universe. Many authors create fantastic but implausible worlds, but Hough centers his world on the essentials – food, water, air. There is no space on Earth to grow food to feed all the remnants of humanity, so food is mostly grown on special agricultural space stations, but water and air for these stations need to be supplied from Earth. This creates a robust trade between the “Orbitals” and the humans on Earth, but the leader of Darwin is not satisfied – he wants more power. I would hope that humanity’s desperate situation would cut down on the individual power plays, but I’m not actually surprised by it.
Skyler is a pretty awesome main character. I liked him a lot because he’s just a regular guy – he’s not young, naive and just discovering his place in the world, and neither is he an old, grizzled veteran who’s seen too much. He’s just a guy trying to get by and take care of his crew. His motives are not especially noble, but he’s not a profiteer Han Solo type either. His normalcy really came across well, and worked! Tania, on the other hand, was a bit of a Mary Sue, she’s brilliant and also so beautiful that no man can look at her and not appreciate it, noble, brave, highly competent, had important parents etc. I have a special peeve for women that are described as so beautiful that it turns every man into a lecher, though (Leesha from Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle annoys me for the same reason). The side characters were more interesting and varied than the main two – Samantha, Kelly, the Platzes, Prumble, to name a few, not to mention the villains. I hope they get more story time in the sequels.
I really liked the more sci-fi aspects of the plot – the mystery surrounding the Builders and their artifacts and their plans, the malfunctioning elevator and the evolution of a new species of subhuman. I found all the subhuman battle stuff somewhat boring though – zombies aren’t that interesting, and I would’ve rather had more sci-fi stuff. Technically, they’re all related since they’re all caused by the Builders, but still, meh, zombies. However, the end seems to set up a sequel where the sci-fi elements will be more prominent, so I’m excited about that.
The next two installments of the series – The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge appear to be scheduled for release in the next two months. I think I’ll be picking them up.
I discovered Carrie Vaughn’s writing in Unfettered, a recent fantasy anthology edited by Shawn Speakman, and I really wanted to read more of her work, so I bought this book. Discord’s Apple was a very interesting (and good!) book, and I want to read even more of Vaughn’s work now, despite not being the biggest fan of urban fantasy.
Evie Walker is a comic book writer in a near future Earth that’s heading straight towards an apocalypse. She has just received news that her father has cancer and heads back to her hometown in the middle of nowhere, where she finds out that there is much more to her family than she realises. Their storeroom contains, among other things, the Golden Fleece and Cinderella’s glass slippers – and Evie is the storeroom’s new guardian.
Discord’s Apple is a pretty slim book, but it covers an epic scale of time and perspectives. It’s mainly told from three points of view – Evie’s, her ancestors’ and a certain ancient Achaean’s, spanning the travels of Odysseus to the future and managing to incorporate every magical legend in between. And it never feels overwhelming – in fact, it’s a pretty compelling tale.
Evie is a pretty generic protagonist in the beginning, but grows tremendously in a short time. I loved the use of her comic book story to illustrate her thought process, it worked very well. The rest of the characters are pretty great too, from the villains to the figures of mythology to the Hopes Fort residents.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I’ll just say this: I expected it to be a lot more predictable/formulaic (which I would’ve been fine with), but the way everything was resolved made a good book into a great book. I’m looking forward to reading more of Vaughn’s work!
Another review I wrote a few months ago but never got around to posting. It’s shorter than usual because it was meant to help me catch up with all the books I’d read… that didn’t work out.
Plain Kate was marketed as a children/YA book, and judging by the cover, I thought it would be a fun and light coming-of-age type book. Well, it was very good and it’s a coming-of-age book of sorts, but it’s quite dark and not exactly “fun”. I’m not sure I’d market it for kids.
Plain Kate lives and works with her father, a woodcarver. However, her life is dramatically altered when her father dies of the plague. Not only does she have nowhere to go, but there are rumours spreading that she is a witch. Friendless and alone, she tries to find a home among the gypsies (who are themselves shunned), but her vulnerability has caught the eye of a magician with a dark purpose.
The main story is rather melancholy, but the writing is intensely evocative and Bow takes you on quite a journey through a very simple tale. The characters are lovely, especially Taggle the talking cat – one of my favourite characters of all time. The ending is poignant on multiple levels.
Telling you any more would spoil the book, so I’ll just say that it’s highly recommended!
I apologise for the lack of reviews on this blog lately – I’ve been in the middle of a move (from Providence, RI to Oberlin, OH) and the whole process took much more time than I thought it would. I don’t want to promise any specific numbers, but I’ll definitely be blogging more frequently now.
Replica came out a couple of weeks ago (July 16), although I wrote this review a few months ago after I read the ARC.
I have a secret weakness for young adult dystopian novels; although the worldbuilding is often much too simplistic and the lead characters tend to be a grating mix of far too powerful and really angsty. They make great fun reads when I’m not in the mood for a serious book, though, like on really long planes where I’m half dead by the end of it. So Replica was one of the first books I packed for my 19 hour flight to India. My hopes for a quick, dumb read were squashed, though, because Replica is actually pretty good.
The worldbuilding is still somewhat hokey – the United States has become the Corporate States. Each state is a corporation ruled by Executives, and power is hereditary. (It really gets me when authors capitalise common words and make that a pivotal thing in their world, but I digress.) This didn’t really make sense to me because to me, capitalism implies a meritocracy, even if people who are already rich have a headstart – the idea of high level employees of a company grooming their “heirs” to take over their jobs is confusing. I mean, maybe it would work if every Executive owned their own company, but each state is its own corporation. (Also the idea of named classes of people is hilarious, although this is certainly not unique to this book.)
I know, I said the book was good and immediately started nitpicking, but trust me, this is a good sign. I wouldn’t be so interested in how the book’s world worked unless I cared enough to keep thinking about it.
So, what is the book about? Nadia, a high ranking Executive is engaged to Nate, the Chairman Heir of the state formerly known as New York. Although she hates all the pressures on her as a female Executive, she’s pretty happy with her life. But then, Nate ends up murdered and although a Replica of him is created from his last memory backup, his family wants answers… and she was the last person to see him alive.
The main characters were pretty good – Nadia is definitely flawed and is confused and out of her depth through most of the book, but once she gets decisive, she’s great. Nate is very exasperating, he is very reactionary and self-centered and continues to be so even when other characters point this out to him. He has good intentions though, so he ends up being pretty likeable. The other characters are not as well fleshed out as I’d like, but there’s a nice set of them.
I loved that the usual romance is subverted; instead of Nate and Nadia barely knowing each other but being infatuated with each other, they’re best friends but very much not in love. Although, the book ends up more towards familiar romance-y territory by the end.
The thing that got me most about this book was the characters’ reactions to things. People communicate to each other way too much – there isn’t enough interpersonal conflict. I never thought I’d complain about this (I often get very frustrated with characters who don’t just talk to each other – Wheel of Time, I’m looking at you). And although there’s a lot of outrage going around, the characters get over it pretty quickly.
The plot was well paced and pretty well resolved, although I wish the “evil secret” had been fleshed out a little more. There’s definitely going to be a sequel, but the book should stand pretty well on its own.
I wasn’t expecting much from this one, but it surprised me. I’ll be keeping an eye out for sequels.
A Jewish immigrant to America needs a wife, but he’s never had any luck with women, so he commissions a golem – an immensely strong creature made of clay that desires nothing but to fulfill her master’s whims. However, he dies on the voyage across the Atlantic, shortly after bringing the golem to life, leaving her utterly lost when she arrives in New York. Meanwhile, while repairing a family heirloom, a tinsmith in the Syrian neighbourhood of New York accidentally releases a jinni who has been asleep for a thousand years. The jinni is furious at being trapped in human form and confused by the completely alien world that surrounds him. In a chance encounter, these two beings from completely different worlds recognise each other for what they are and form a strong friendship.
The Golem and the Jinni is Helene Wecker’s debut novel and it is charming. The two protagonists are extremely compelling, both separately and as a contrast to each other. Chava, the golem, is conditioned to be obedient, but she was also made to be curious and intelligent, and without a master, her curiosity leads her to discover her own individuality. Ahmad, the jinni, has spent hundreds of years answering to no one but his own whims, and he is slowly driving himself crazy having to care about what other people think, since he is without the powers that he’s used to having. They make a perfect counterpoint to each other, and their lives end up being more entwined than they realise.
Wecker really brings turn-of-the-century New York to life – the different neighbourhoods and cultures, and the realities and promise of being a new immigrant. Although, places and streets are thrown into the story with minimal explanation at times, and a map would’ve been helpful to visualise some of Ahmad’s nighttime wandering.
The supporting cast is not quite as captivating as the titular duo, but how can they be? There are some pretty memorable characters in there, though, and not just from the Syrian and Jewish neighbourhoods.The constantly exasperated tinsmith Arbeely (not that I blame him for the exasperation), the kind rabbi Avram Meyer, the slightly desperate do-gooder Michael Levy, the possessed man-of-science Mahmoud Saleh, and many more. These characters are just as complex as the protagonists, and they all end up in very different places by the end of the book.
I’ve barely touched upon the plot, but rest assured that there is one, and it is very well-done. I was worried that this book would be too literary for my tastes (I’m a unabashed genre fantasy reader), but I was not bored for a second. The pacing is great and the book really builds up as the truth gets harder to hide, and it ends just right.
I think both genre and non-genre fans will really enjoy this book, which is a rare thing. Highly recommended!
P.S. In case you’re wondering where I’ve been, I was on vacation in my hometown in India, and now I’m busy packing for a move to Ohio in mid-June. I have a few reviews and an interview pretty much ready to go, though, and I’ve kept up with my reading, so expect more posts soon-ish.
I approached The Forever Knight with some trepidation because it was the fourth book in a series that I hadn’t read (The Bronze Knight), and I haven’t read a series out-of-order in more than ten years. However, it turned out to be pretty good and stands very well on its own.
Lukien is the Bronze Knight, a hero in his world. However, he’s old and barely keeping himself together – he has lost the love of his life and watched his best friend go insane. It’s pretty much the worst time for him to become near immortal, but so life goes. An Akari magician’s spirit named Malator lives within his sword, keeping him alive despite Lukien’s best efforts and insisting that Lukien still has a destiny to fulfill. So he sets out as knight-errant to Akyre, in the ever-warring Bitter Kingdoms, to help his friend Cricket regain her lost memories.
The story is told from the first person perspective, which is very hard to get right, but Lukien has a very believable voice. He’s clearly been through a lot, and his struggle to find purpose in his new life is compelling. It’s interesting to see his thoughts and insecurities from an inside perspective – to everyone else, he is a living legend, but to the reader, he’s just a person who is as capable of making bad decisions as anyone else (and he makes some pretty bad ones in the book, although he can’t really be blamed for them because he didn’t have enough information to make better ones).
The other characters are also quite likeable, especially Cricket – her obvious hero-worship of Lukien mixed with her carefully cultivated shell of quirkiness was pretty poignant. The interactions between characters was sometimes a little too abrupt (both trust and distrust seemed to be acquired relatively easily), but I’m not complaining – it just took a bit of time to get used to, and it did help advance the plot quickly.
The plot itself seemed like a setup for future books; even though it’s the fourth book, Lukien’s life has changed completely, so it reads like the first book of a new series. He’s lost everything that defined him, so he’s discovering himself again, his powers, his boundaries and his purpose. In the beginning, he’s an aimless adventurer, and through his adventures, he makes some questionable decisions and ends up wiser and more focused.
I’m intrigued by Lukien’s world – Malator and the Akari in particular are very mysterious. I really enjoyed Malator’s character, but I’m somewhat suspicious of his motives. I’m not sure if there’s more about the Akari in the previous books of the series, so I might be way off base, but I’m very curious to find out what exactly he wants from Lukien, and why the Akari do what they do (it’s explained that they get to live with the help of humans, but it doesn’t seem like that much of a life).
Overall, a pretty good book, and a great introduction to Marco’s work. I’m looking forward to reading more about Lukien’s past in the first three books (starting with The Eyes of God) as well as seeing where his story goes in future installments.
Planesrunner is sci-fi author Ian McDonald’s first foray into YA, and it’s pretty good. I’ve only read his River of Gods and Cyberabad Days, and it was great to see a different writing style and world.
Everett Singh’s father has been kidnapped right before his eyes, but no one believes him and the police seem strangely uninterested. Everett is convinced that the kidnapping is related to his father’s groundbreaking research, and since no one else seems to want to, it’s up to him to rescue his father… even if it means leaving the reality he’s lived in all his life.
McDonald is great at building science fiction worlds – the parallel realities in Planesrunner are really cool. Each version of Earth that our Earth has made contact with is different; shaped by a single historical change. For example, in the Earth that Everett spends most of the book in, oil was never discovered, and all technology is powered by electricity. That means airships but no planes, plastics being much rarer, and no space programmes.
Everett is a pretty good protagonist. He’s average in many ways, but he’s a really good cook and extremely smart, both of which he uses to great effect. Sometimes he’s too much of a Mary Sue (he figures out a puzzle that stumps his father’s colleagues in a day or so), but he’s still pretty lovable. The rest of the characters are also fun to read about – there’s Anastasia Sixsmyth, the airship captain, Sen, the bratty navigator, and the extremely well put together but evil Charlotte Villiers.
The plot confused me a bit – notwithstanding the Infundibulum being an iPad app (so Everett’s dad is a iPad programmer as well as being a theoretical physicist?), why was Everett’s dad’s kidnapping conducted in public, if the authorities wanted it covered up? I also would’ve liked a bit more planesrunning in the book. I was hoping to explore more than one of the parallel Earths, but that only happens in the sequels. I was a bit disappointed when I found out what the Everness was, since I know the series is called “Everness”. I like airships, but I like alternate realities more, so I wish the focus wasn’t on so much on the adventures of the airship and her crew.
Those are small nitpicks though. Overall, I enjoyed Planesrunner and I’m looking forward to revisiting the world and characters with Be My Enemy.
The Daylight War is Book 3 of the Demon Cycle (I reviewed book 1, but I never reviewed book 2, which is too bad since that’s the book that got me excited about the series). I had it pre-ordered for quite a while, and so I was pretty excited when it finally arrived on Feb 12, and ended up finishing it the same day.
We pick up the story right about where we left off in The Desert Spear. Our heroes (Arlen and Jardir) are now aware of mind-demons and mimic demons thanks to the attacks they both survived independently. They also realise that there will be a massive attack when the moon is full again, so they start preparing – Jardir in the ex-Fort Rizon and Arlen in Cutter’s Hollow. The star of the book isn’t the present-day story, though, it’s the flashbacks to Inevara’s story.
The Daylight War is the best book in the series so far. I really enjoy Brett’s slow expansion of the world and the protagonists – so far, both his sequels have taken the one-dimensional antagonist from the previous book and turned them into a sympathetic protagonist. Inevara handles this treatment even better than Jardir. She ends up being my favourite character so far, maybe because she’s almost always in control of herself, even when the dice throw surprises at her (and they throw quite a few). Even when she’s consumed by doubt, she takes action and adapts as necessary – no other characters in the series do that so well. It’s a pretty classic story – poor but smart girl gets chosen, goes to “school” with a bunch of other people who are jealous, etc. The dice are very interesting – I wonder if we’ll ever find out more about how they tell the future.
The other characters have also changed and grown – some for the better. Rojer has finally acquired some self-confidence, probably helped by his newfound relationship. I’m really glad he stopped mooning over Leesha, but I still find the progression of his new relationships a bit unbelievable – especially given that most of the book takes place over a month. I mean, I’m glad it works, Rojer is way less annoying, so I guess I won’t complain too much.
Jardir and Arlen seem to have turned into zen masters, except for their very rash decision towards the end of the book. They’ve developed extremely strong powers, and a patience and understanding to match. This makes them kind of boring, since they’re always being reasonable and don’t really have any internal conflict. I don’t want to say much about the ending, but I didn’t approve of it at all – I think it belies the leadership that they’ve both seemingly accepted. But then, there’s a lot of personal history there – maybe that was the internal conflict.
The other characters – Renna is scary. She always seems like she’s one second from losing his mind, and Arlen is the only thing keeping her together. I’m glad they’re working, but I still have the feeling there’s a looming betrayal. Leesha didn’t seem to have a lot to do in this story except be sad, so I hope she gets better next book. I do like Thamos, he seems nice, but I’m afraid to think that; the next book will probably focus on how he’s all screwed up inside.
The general lasciviousness in this book seems lower than the other books, which is good. There’s still too much sex and rape for my tastes, but at least there’s a lot more fading to black, and Leesha is being described without so much focus on her body. I’m still somewhat troubled by Krasian society and the casual way in which rape is treated (at one point, a character is described as having a habit of visiting another character’s home and raping the first daughter or wife he sees – how does that even work?!) But Krasian society is changing slowly, so that’s good, I guess.
I should probably say a bit about the present-day events – they did advance the plot, and we found out a lot more about demons through some demon PoVs. It took a backseat to the growth of the characters, though, and that was totally fine with me. I’m guessing a lot more will happen next book on that front – a lot of the things that did happen seemed like setup.
One last thing: beware the cliffhanger ending. Aside from that, it was a great book and I’m eagerly waiting for The Skull Throne.