Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth: he wrote her name in the stars

Qorth is set on a future Earth, where the seas have covered nearly all of the planet’s surface, and of the whole human population, only two isolated settlements remain. It’s a compelling backdrop to a dystopia, but in some ways, the world-building was contradictory. Early in the book, the narrator presents a picture of a community that shares everything, where the elders tell old stories of murder and racism. However, as the story develops, the setting describes the community, and especially those living outside the main settlement, as terrorised and raided by violent gangs, which I found difficult to reconcile.

Alone in her family’s old farmhouse, Cameron lives on the Outer Zone of the US settlement, near what used to be Yuma. Cameron is a powerfully isolated protagonist in many ways, physically and emotionally; highly independent and willing to look outside her community’s customs for knowledge. Her encounter with an alien species on the beach near her home is possible because of this isolation; her isolation also makes both of them a target. It is this status as an outsider, the balance between independence and exposure, that drives a lot of the plot. The first person voice was also strongly-written in this story; flippant and sarcastic, Cameron provides a unique and memorable narrative voice.

I had a bit of trouble with this book, and trying to figure out exactly what it was in objective terms turned out to be tough enough that it delayed putting this review up by an embarrassing amount of time. I’m fond of sci-fi, I generally get on well enough with dystopia, and I have what could be uncharitably termed an addiction to anti-hero types, all of which boxes are checked by Qorth; but when I reached the end I was still on the fence. The romance that develops between Cameron and Qorth had its ups and its downs from my perspective; while it had some original points, (I have to give points for the originality of the setting), I found some of the interactions on the stilted side. While I’m a terrible romance reviewer, there are romance books that I can’t put down, where the characters fascinate me and the tension between them drives me to read more, and that quality wasn’t there in this book for me.

Despite my challenges with some aspects, I found this book merited a solid three stars; it’s well-paced, features a strong anti-hero type as the protagonist (I am a sucker for my anti-heroes) and a lot of the ideas were both original and compelling.

Reviewed for Romance Rehab.

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Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son

Second Son is the second in the Watchers series, picking up simultaneously to the ending of If There Be Giants. This installment follows Grey’s point of view more closely as he learns the truth of his infamous heritage – and how to reconcile his existence and that of his family with their beliefs. However, Grey is faced with more and harder choices than he might have believed possible, and both he and his soul mate, Mallory Jacks, will be tested.

Author Ellison Blackburn’s trademark ability to weave thought-provoking concepts into stories that are gripping, well-developed reads is back on display in this series, as she explores love, fidelity, and faith through the lens of Grey and Mallory’s lives. The handling of the Christian mythology displays the depth of research that went into the story and provides a strong framework that underlies the choices the protagonists must make in this book. This second novel in the series focusses strongly on the interpersonal relationships of the characters, leaving the first book’s tale of the landmark discovery at Gwellen and its scientific exploitation more as a side note to Grey’s personal journey and the questions it raises. This book will definitely enthrall readers who enjoy exploring the boundaries between science, philosophy, and religious belief.

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