Aquifer

Aqua

Blurb: Only he can bring what they need to survive.

In the year 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it control everything. Sixteen-year-old Luca has struggled with this truth, and what it means, his entire life. As the son of the Deliverer, he will one day have to descend to the underground Aquifer each year and negotiate with the reportedly ratlike miners who harvest the world’s fresh water. But he has learned the true control rests with the Council aboveground, a group that has people following without hesitation, and which has forbidden all emotion in the name of keeping the peace. This Council has broken his father’s spirit, while also forcing Luca to hide every feeling that rules his heart.

But when Luca’s father goes missing, everything shifts. Luca is forced underground, and discovers secrets and mysteries that cause him to questions who he is and the world he serves. Together with his friends and a very alluring girl, Luca seeks to free his people and the Rats from the Council’s control. But Luca’s mission is not without struggle and loss, as his desire to uncover the truth could have greater consequences than he ever imagined.

Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen is an odd book. It’s set in a dystopian Australia which was interesting and unique. While obviously taking place in the distant future, the technology seemed all over to me – many aspects felt almost primitive but then other technologies seemed quite advanced. The ever-present dials perfectly embodied that contradiction – their capabilities seemingly outweighing the archaic wrapping. I didn’t understand the technology and most of it seemed unrealistic so I had to reclassify the book from realistic-dystopian to AU-dystopian to wrap my brain around it all.

The story started rather slowly, and it had a very melancholy feel. It did a fantastic job setting the mood and environment but since I was awaiting the “story” to start, it felt a little dragged out. But once things got going, I was hooked. The land below-ground was fascinating and I was sad we didn’t get to spend more time there. Luca was an interesting character, struggling with trust and unearthing layers upon layers of secrets that his entire world has been built on. And I loved the veiled references to God and faith – it wasn’t preachy at all but it hinted and pointed at something more.

Romance is very toned down, though definitely on the insta-love side of things. This was more of a middle-grade level book in my mind. I can see this story highly appealing to boys (though girls should like it just fine). The cast reminded me somewhat of Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga, being a bit of a ragtag group of characters. The only thing I wished for was an epilogue or one more chapter to wrap things up a bit. The story ended rather abruptly and with a few questions unanswered.  It’s like ending Star Wars after the death star explodes but without the ending award scene.

And can I just mention that I love the cover. It captures the setting and tone perfectly.

How do you feel about epilogues?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won a copy from JillWilliamson.com in a giveaway. I was not required to write a positive review (or any review at all). The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

The Story In The Stars

Dassa
Blurb: Dassa skates toward the palace in completion of her Third Quest, unaware the Karkar Plague has returned to ravage Gannah.

On a medical starship not far away, Dr. Pik is ordered to find a cure for the plague – an unlikely assignment, given his inbred hatred of the whole Gannahan race. Duty trumps prejudice, however, and he succeeds… but that’s just the beginning of the story.

Dassa and Pik survive attack by space pirates, food poisoning, savage Gannahan beasts, and a plane crash. The hardest part, though, is enduring one another’s company.

The Creator who wrote the story of redemption in the stars has commanded her to share it with her reluctant savior. That’s not all He requires of her, but the rest is unthinkable.

The Story in the Stars by Yvonne Anderson was an interesting tale. The book alternates viewpoints between Dassa, Gannahan sole survivor of a planetary plague, and Pik, a doctor from a race of people nearly exterminated by the Gannahan centuries before. And yet Pik, as half-human – the only one of his kind – is capable of identifying with Dassa more than anyone else.

I loved Dassa and her world. She was strong, capable and amazing. Gannahan’s were a fascinating race with neat abilities. And their planet was a simultaneously scary, beautiful place that I could have read about endlessly. Everything to do with Dassa and her planet was colorful, vivid and lively. Pik, however, was a bit more uneven. He started the story with quite a chip on his shoulder but, over time, came to know Dassa and they even seemed to develop a bit of a comradery. But then he would suddenly regress a bit so I had a hard time feeling like I ever really got to know him.

The story is very religious – I liked the idea that God arranged the constellations on every single planet as a story of His love. (And the one negative review on Amazon amused me with it’s accusations of heresy – um, it’s a fictional what-if!) In many ways the story was more about Pik than Dassa – getting past his pride, prejudices and misconceptions to surrender himself to the Lord. Meanwhile Dassa struggled with the burden of being the last of her kind and the violent inclinations of her race (everyone has a thorn to battle, right?). So most of the book was focused on Dassa sharing God with a resistant Pik, throughout all their adventures.

While I loved the Gannahan’s, there was one small aspect of them that I didn’t think quite made sense. But it’s difficult to go into without being slightly spoilery. The Gannahan’s have an ability to tap into their spiritual connection – their Meah. So while all Christians have the Holy Spirit, they literally have a direct line of communication. It was an interesting concept (wouldn’t it be great if God spoke to us as regularly and literally as He does to them?). And when they are about to die, they drive out to a holy place, deep inside a mountain, and walk through a portal into Heaven. Their family, watching them leave, literally sees them welcomed into Jesus’ arms. (This may only be for their king’s – I wasn’t clear on that part.) But if the Gannahan’s only discovered God after their almost-invasion of earth so many centuries ago, where did this holy room and portal come from? It’s not a critical plot point, but it niggled at me.

The one aspect that I really didn’t like was that, almost from the beginning, Dassa felt God telling her she is eventually supposed to marry Pik. And so all her interactions with him felt slightly tinged with ulterior motives – bringing the guy who frequently acted like a slimeball to salvation so she could stomach to marry him (and so he’d even want to). And then the book ended before any hinted romance. After putting up with his attitude for the entire book, I was expecting a little romantic payoff! 😉 I also didn’t understand the one-year time jump at the very end. Why the gap?

All that being said, I found Gannahan such a fascinating place that I look forward to reading the next in the series. And hopefully getting to like Pik now that he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder! 😉

Do you expect a little romance in most books?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.