Genre: Retellings, Sci-Fi, YA
Publication date: October 6, 2015
by Disney Hyperion
Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.
Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.
Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?
Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen'sThe Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.
-A copy was provided by Disney Book Group for review-
I am honestly quite conflicted with this book.
While I appreciated this was a retelling of an under-the-radar fairy tale (come on, we have had enough of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid retellings!), this book left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I kind of expected a lot because even though I had some problems with Stitching Snow, the author does know how to write a story. With a cover like that, with a premise like that (oh-em-gee, eight older brothers?! Sign me up, s’il te plaît!), surely after a year, and with a writer like R.C. Lewis, surely this book will knock other retellings out of the water?! Unfortunately, instead of feeling enamored with it, I just feel a bit… deflated.
Meet Liddi Jantzen, the heiress to a large techy company that helped stabilize and make useful the conduits, some sort of hyperdimensional transportation portal that people use to travel between the seven worlds more efficiently. However, one day, mysterious men gunned down her home, and her brothers were discovered missing, only to later realize that something… or someone… trapped them in between worlds in the conduits for a malicious purpose.
The best thing about this book was Lia’s inner narration. I definitely thought it was well-done and genuine, letting us into her personal thoughts in a rather intimate way. She was insecure about her skills and abilities, having eight genius brothers who churned out technological innovations on a daily basis, and oftentimes wondered why her parents decided to make her the heiress when she felt worthless. It was quite heart-warming to see her grow out of her shell as she strived for ways to rescue her brother, go out to other worlds in order to know more about the phenomenon that are the Khuas, and face the villain despite them having stolen her voice (or blackmailed her, for a more accurate term…). She literally didn’t speak out loud in this novel 80% of the time, because otherwise, the implant that was put in her throat without her consent would let the villain know and her brothers would be killed in retaliation.
That said, it was interesting to see how she would interact with her surroundings and with the other characters through other means. What are you to do when you get transported to another world you have never been to, only to not be able to communicate or ask for help? That’s why the efforts she did in order to get her message across were cool to watch. It was realistic seeing the misunderstandings, the frustrations, the patience and the impatience people had around her in order to help understand her better.
However, this book was not all rainbows and butterflies for me…
I have to say, despite all the technical/mechanical/engineering mumbo-jumbo that was put in here, it was really, really hard to imagine the setting. The world-building was definitely vague, and the scientific explanations were shaky at best. Like she lives in this planet called Sampati, but I couldn’t picture what it looked like – I know there are vid-cams, some sort of flying, buzzing cameras that are all over the place, and that people generally don’t know how to read despite being technological geniuses (lol what??), and that there are night clubs and… laserball teams??… but otherwise, I just couldn’t picture it. The book never bothered to set up the setting, that’s why it was quite hard to immerse myself in this whole-new world in a distant place in the universe. There are six other worlds people could access, and like Sampati, we never really get a general idea how each world was in terms of cultural and societal norms.
And then there was Ferrine. Another world the heroine stumbles across, which had the human race (or the Aelo in their terms…) and other alien life forms which are basically humans too except with larger bodies or longer arms or other lame physical modifications. Like seriously, there are alien life forms and we essentially get the same built? I mean, let’s be realistic here – what are the chances in that? The reason why mammals are top-dog in Earth is because the dinosaurs were unlucky enough to get fucked over by asteroids. But if that didn’t happen, I shit you not we would be saying, “Oh, my, what big and lethal dinosaur teeth you have!”
There’s also the issue that the scientific explanations seemed much more complicated than they should have been. I mean, I understand them, but not after rereading a dozen times and silently muttering to myself as I tried to draw a mental image of what the heck was going on. There was also the issue that the middle part dragged so much, all because she didn’t want to say what was going on to the people around her. I understand her reasons for saying why, but goddamn, this book took its sweet time getting there. There were times when the scenes felt they were running in circles.
But hey, at least the romance was in the background. Even if it was a little… boring. Tiav is a cool guy and all, but he was such a flat and meh character.
All in all, my complaints are pretty subjective. I have a feeling it’s that sort of book you won’t know whether you hate or love it until you give it a try. Take my complaints with a grain of salt if these things don’t bother you as much.