Terra Nova, by Shane Arbuthnott

I opened my review of Dominion, by Shane Arbuthnott, with this teaser: "Are you in need of a steampunk fantasy set in an alternate New World where air ships powered by aetherial spirits travel through the skies in search of other spirits to capture and sell?"  It was a very enjoyable and interesting book, with a great heroine, and I was very happy to curl up yesterday with the sequel, Terra Nova (Orca, March 2018).  I will tease again with the following question:  Are you in need of a book that tackles with steampunk flair and fantasy elements the systematic enslavement of sentient beings and the economic exploitation of human workers as well, forced to labor for the enrichment of oppressors?  If that doesn't convince you, can I throw in the teaser that Molly, the young heroine, is passionate fighter for justice, wracked by guilt when there are casualties, but never giving up because she cannot turn her back on the problems of her society?

Molly has made it her life's work to free the enslaved aetheric beings that power her world.  Most of the other inhabitants of Terra Nova still believe the spirits are fundamentally hostile, but Molly knows better.  With spirits both great and small, her family, and a handful of allies working with her, she sets herself to overthrow the corporation that tortures the spirits for their own profit.   But freeing handfuls of spirits, and liberating as well the human workers who toil in the factories, is like scooping water with a sieve.  How can she change the mindset of Terra Nova, and bend its arc toward justice once and for all?

Answer--with lots of hair-raising adventures, brave and desperate battles, the courage of her convictions, aetherial beings of tremendous power, and a new ally with lots of p.r. experience, who used to work for the bad guys, who knows the power of the printed word.  The fact that Molly isn't doing it alone is what makes this work; although she special in having a strong bond with two powerful spirits, it's their power, and the power of other spirits and human persons, that allow Molly to be as effective as she is.

In my review of the first book, I said:

"Molly's a great heroine and the whole set up with the spirits is fascinating.  I wish we'd been given more of a look at this alternate world--we only see the sliver of sky traversed by Molly and her Family, and the one city where they dock, though there are hints of the bigger world.  And likewise it seems like the author knew more backstory about Molly's family than is given in any detail.   I'm hoping Molly's world will be broader in future installments, because she's a great heroine who really deserves a great world to adventure in! "

And it is broadened somewhat here.   The mainland, where the colonizers of Terra Nova never travel, is introduced, and its alternate First Nation people, are represented by a man who, like Molly, has a bond with aetherial spirits (not uncommon in his people, though happily not uncomfortably in any "spirit animal" sort of sense).   I would like even more of the wider world in future books, though this book wraps up all the obvious plot threads, so a new antagonist would be needed....

Short answer:  this is a tremendously solid and exciting series, that I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy/steampunk adventures that come with considerable action (there's lots of fighting, and some fatalities to give it gravitas), more than a smidge of parkour (Molly learned lots of good climbing and jumping tricks in her childhood on a flying ship),  really cool spirit beings, and lots and lots of thoughtful social justice.  It straddles the space between middle grade and YA, being one I'd recommend to 11-14 years if pressed to draw lines.

Kirkus gave this one a star, saying "This spectacular sequel takes steampunk into new territory."

moral of the story--realize your ancestors did bad things, and work to undo them!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Free Blog Counter

Button styles