Shadow Run

Shadow Run

Cover image for Shadow Run
Cover image for Shadow Run

Please excuse me if this blog post is formatted strangely. I’m writing it on my phone because the wifi at my house isn’t working and the landlady hasn’t gotten around to fixing it yet, so no computer for me.

I finished Shadow Run last night and was reasonably impressed. Typically, when it comes to books I’ve never heard of, I’m a little skeptical (I know, I know, but so much of YA is hit or miss). I got this one in LitJoyCrate, and sadly, the last book I read from a LJC was a dreadful disappointment (The Edge of Everything–just no).

Shadow Run is seemingly set, to quote a really obscure film that I’m sure no one has ever heard of, “in a galaxy far, far away.”  The names of planets do not resemble those found in our galaxy, but it could be that it’s set so far in the future that it IS our galaxy, but our arcane names for things have been long forgotten. In any case, I always assumed that would be the most fun part of being a sci-fi/fantasy writer–to imagine a universe where physics work the same way but everything else is different. Perhaps it IS a different universe and a different galaxy because what the heck is Shadow?? Besides beautiful and dangerous, that is.

“Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.
As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.
But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.
Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.” —Indiebound.org

Despite being in a rather gloomy mood lately and not feeling like reading much at all, this novel held my interest well. The characters were enjoyable, though I thought the crew members could have been a little more in-depth. It was going for that feeling you get from gangs like The Dregs or Manon Blackbeak’s Thirteen, but it fell a little short of the mark. Nev and Qole were excellent protagonists, though I hate that it seems like female characters have to be temperamental to be strong in a lot of books, including this one. I enjoyed that it didn’t feel like either one was more important than the other. They were equals, and they saved each other (thank you for not making Qole a damsel in distress despite her Captain’s status!).

Plot felt a little ponderous at first, though it quickly picked up. By the end it was one of those you can’t put down so you can sleep. It is definitely a stay-up-late-and-finish book. I thought the denouement was great, even if I did sort of predict how the crew would solve its main problem at the end.

I was also really impressed with how casually inclusive this novel is in regards to race and also gender.  One of the characters in Qole’s crew is gender fluid (though identifies for much of this novel as male), and each of his crew members accepts how he chooses to identify at any given time and change their use of pronouns accordingly. They also accept and nurture his burgeoning relationship with another male member of the crew. It’s not a major plot point–it’s just the way that character is written. It’s nice to see themes of acceptance in a book for kids.

Of course, at its ending, it is obvious that the immediate problem of the novel is solved, but the galaxy is still massively messed up, thereby leaving room for a second novel, at least. Thankfully, there’s no love triangle–a trend it seems that smart YA authors are trying to phase out.

This is a great space sci-fi for readers of this genre. Lots of action and adventure, and they don’t shy away from the violence necessary to a war in space. Characters are likable and some are complex, making them sympathetic and readable. I’d definitely read a follow up, if one came out.

13.16–Linked

13.16–Linked

This is the best work of YA science-fiction I’ve read in a very long time.  I was completely captivated from start to finish. By the end I was completely bug-eyed (and in tears) and skipped eating on my lunch break so I could finish it.

Linked tells the story of Elissa, who used to be a normal and somewhat popular girl.  Three years ago, however, she began to have headaches and visions, then dreams that came with enormous pain and left her with bruises all over her body.  The night she discovers that she is, in fact, mentally linked with another girl whose whole life has consisted of torture at the hands of scientists, her world is flipped on its head and she is swept away in a whirlwind of danger.

I have to give a huge nod to Imogen Howson for creating a sci-fi, futuristic world that is NOT dystopian.  I have to say, I’m getting a little tired of the dystopian concept.  While there are certainly different rules and regulations in this future, they are nowhere near the level needed to qualify it as a dystopian society.  Instead, this book takes place thousands of years in the future, on a planet that resembles Earth, but is in fact a terraformed planet–one of many in this futuristic world.  She does such an amazing job in the first chapter (or two?) of convincing her readers that the story takes place on Earth.

Howson’s world-building is extremely impressive.  I was totally convince that her society and her technologies could be real, and was pleased with all the futuristic gadgets and ships.  There is a fantastic back story on why people left Earth, and a whole interplanetary system whose planets are rated by inhabitability and quality of life, kind of like 1st-3rd world countries here on Earth.

Elissa is a great character.  She’s flawed, and the reader gets to experience her inner turmoil all throughout, first from feeling like an outcast because of her mysterious illness and then because of her uncertain feelings about the girl with whom she is linked.  Throw in an unexpected romance, and you have a great story that really grips you.  Lin, the other girl, is quite disagreeable at times because she was tortured for her whole life.  Often, Elissa is torn on whether or not she should help Lin, because Lin sometimes displays the traits of a sociopath.  But Lin is fiercely loyal to Elissa, and Elissa grows to be quite loyal to Lin.  The development of their relationship is at times painful but more often than not is heartwarming.

I definitely recommend this book to everyone, but especially females.  I feel like a lot of times science-fiction is geared toward male readers, with either a male protagonist or a sexy, badass female one.  This one is definitely a great sci-fi read, but it’s also filled with the emotion and struggle of a girl’s coming to grips with her womanhood and the person she wants to be as a grown-up.  Pick it up in June.  Seriously.