(Review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/29688.html)Why I Read It:
This was calico_reaction's Dare for the month of December as well as the selection for The Women of Science Fiction book club.
When I first cracked open this book, I think it's worth mentioning that I had little to no idea what it was actually about. I had even avoided reading the summary for the book. I had reasonably high expectations for it because of calico_reaction's original review for it (which you can read here) but not SUPER high. So it was with glee that I found myself midly surprised at just how much I enjoyed reading this novel.
This might sound kind of calloused of me, but I get kind of annoyed when I read stories that have colonization themes. Of course I hate it when underrepresented people get the short end of the stick, and I do get infuriated by the unfairness (to understate it a bit) of colonization in general, but reading these kinds of stories has also become incredibly predictable. You have the repressed people who are usually attuned to the earth somehow, then the evil Usually Rich and Privileged come along and totally take their land and start killing the earth and stuff!! But there's always one person from the evil side who is sound of mind and joins the victims and saves the day!! Not only is this trend problematic to underreprestented people, but it's become repetitive and boring. So I was mildly concerned at first when it started becoming clear what the storyline of this book would be. Shan was going to be the person from the "evil" side of things who was going to be on the side of the Wess'har and the colonists on Cavanagh's Star. The Earth people were obviously going to be evil and were going to want to take over the planet because they're greed capitalist bastards.
And well, that IS how things play out. BUT, and I can't exactly put my finger on why, I still liked this story. I liked it a lot. In fact, I kind of fell in love with it.
I think the best part of the novel was Aras. He is seriously one of the most awesome characters I have come across recently and I absolutely loved him to pieces. He's an incredibly tragic hero, and yes, he bemoans his fate, but never in an annoying and overbearing way. He's also incredibly charismatic (without even realizing it probably) and intelligent, and capable, but his sad situation makes him vulnerable and thus I was able to connect with him. In a lot of ways he's cold and detached (you would have to be, to kill as many beings as Aras has), which you would THINK would make it difficult to like him, so it was awesome what Traviss did with him.
Shan herself is also an admirable character. She's the typical Bad Ass Female in many ways, but there was a lot of little things that set her apart. For one, Shan is fairly old. She's not OLD OLD, but she's no youngin' either. There's also very little focus on any kind of romance. She has a crush on one of the soldiers but for various reasons they can't hook up (and reading about Shan's frustrations over this was actually quite amusing) but other than that, no romance. She also has a somewhat stable (though not so much by the end of the book) friendship with another woman, Lindsay.
Together though? Shan and Aras are an amazing pair. What I loved most about them was that Aras found Shan childlike in many ways, as well as a comforting presence, and Shan felt the same way about Aras, but for different reasons. There was true comraderie between them and their scenes together were some of my favorite.
I've talked a lot about characters here and very little about the other aspects of the novel, such as the writing or the plot. To be honest, I don't have a whole lot to say other than it was good and I really enjoyed it. The reason I enjoyed it so much though was because I was so invested in the characters. Shan and Aras were obviously my favourites, but the secondary characters were equally awesome and developed (for the most part). Events happened in the story that either made me really happy or really mad, and they did because I cared. So yes, it did have a lot of tropes that I mentioned above that I usually find predictable and thus boring, but because I was so invested in the characters, I didn't care.Final Judgment:
I usually find stories of James Cameron's Avatar variety to be kind of boring; they're predictable and preachy (despite my caring for the subject matter). So you can imagine my surprise when I ended up loving this story that adopts many similar tropes. Where this novel truly shines is its characters because the main and secondary ones are well-rounded and developed and makes you care. Shan and Aras in particular were a wonderful duo. This is the first in a six book series and I can't wait to read more.