Harper Voyager (9780007443499)
I really liked this book. I found the synopsis interesting, of course, or I would not have bought it almost directly after finding out that this trilogy existed. But I hadn’t expected that I would really really like this book. It’s always great to find an author you’ve never heard of that you find writes gorgeous books, because you can add another one to your must-watch list. After putting it down, I immediately went online to order books two and three and I am anxiously awaiting their arrival. A bit scared, as I always am when you know so many things could go horribly wrong when you first develop a crush – it could be disappointing and then the first book will be ruined too (*cough*Shatter Me series*cough*). But I am mostly anticipating, and I love that feeling of a good book that leaves you wanting more, more more!
This premises does something quite new in the fantasy and scifi genre. It’s not someone who knows little and has a lot of untapped power. It’s someone who knows everything (and I mean obsessively, overcompensatingly everything) but has a fatal flaw. And whatever she does, however much knowledge she has, she will never overcome this one thing. And I genuinely hope that she never will. A large part of this book is about acceptance. You can do a lot when you set your mind to it, but there are things you can’t change, no matter how much you want them to.
So, we have an original heroine. Who knows a hell of a lot about the subject in the book. Instead of the usual “teacher explains to the hero”, it’s the heroine who keeps stealing everyone’s thunder. But it’s not jarring in any way, because you know about her handicap and how debilitating it is in this world. How much they are discriminated against. In a world where everyone can portal anywhere, she can never leave Earth. Luckily, she loves the one thing that Earth can provide her, but this need to prove herself I can understand very well. To be respected without people knowing about your flaw, to see if they like you for you. I think you might have noticed, but I’ve been there once.
I really love how Jane Edwards handles the problems in her book. Things are made easier because some things have simply changed when society learned how to portal. Certain issues you would normally have are now waved away with a simple sentence. No large explanations, just “ProMums have enormous power. They can do this stuff. Deal with it.” I loved it. It saves room for the problems Jane Edwards really wants to tackle, so she doesn’t get bogged down. The enormous complexity of feeling about being an Earth girl, a nean. Abandoned at birth into the foster system, the option of one try in portalling off world at 14, and the option of getting the contact info of your parents.
I understand what Yarra is feeling and doing by applying to an off-world university. She has thought it out. Part of her wants to prove herself, and part of her is so very angry. There is a natural “of-courseness” to Yarra’s actions when you consider – as you will in this book – how much rejection must still weigh her down. And that it is not so different from what we have all experienced at some point, and many foster kids are still experiencing right now. As usual, it strikes me how a world so unlike our own can so acutely point out our very real contemporary issues.
I was unsure when Yarra went into brain lockdown, because I didn’t know where it was going to go and it could have been handled very wrongly. I still feel that bit wary, but I have to admit that Jane Edwards found her way out very gracefully. Not only because such a thing would further the story into actions that Yarra normally would have never taken, explaining why she does them now, but because that would actually be a very real reaction from someone so deeply traumatised as Yarra. It tells us that emotional shocks upon emotional scars do some real damage, and again how that ties into our true reality.
The oooonly part I didn’t agree with, is Fian. I don’t find him well written. For most of the book he is almost like a cardboard character, who is defined by this freakish thing he likes and which is referred to far too often. His interest in her is not motivated beyond that, and I would have liked their to be at least more substantial reasons behind his reasoning. I also have trouble believing the strongly focused Yarra will so easily be swayed into liking this one-dimensional boy, but Fian’s underfunded attraction to Yarra annoys me more. But she does consider him, and it makes the romance fall flat because it’s not worked out properly. It certainly doesn’t help when it only happens because of Yarra’s mental breakdown, because that is Jane Edwards telling us we were right not to ship this couple. Also, I’m a big fan of men who know what they are doing, and Fian cowering behind Yarra in the face of a mere portal outage does nothing for me 😉
But (and it’s a big but), Fian becomes interesting when Yarra’s secret outs. And against all odds, I find I actually really like the new FIan. He has a backbone know that he knows who she is and knows she has betrayed him. He realised he still wants her, and that is because of who she is. It’s partly because they are also tied together that he can’t particularly walk out immediately, but he is the one who makes his choice – and a firm stand – after his first expression of anger. And I am really curious to see where this relationship will develop to now that it’s had a hopeful injection, It’s just slightly too bad for the rest of the book to have not been in on this game.
There are a few little things, of course, that are a bit out there. Yarra constantly finds situations to excel at while she – as a Foundation course student – shouldn’t even be allowed to go near them. There are sufficient explanations why, and Jane Edwards mentions multiple times how exceptional it is for these things to happen at such a time to have Yarra be put in the position in the first place. But stacked together they are a bit much of a coincidence to really flow with the story unnoticed. You know what the author is doing. But it does not bother me much, because Jane Edwards can balance them out. Choosing to have Yarra’s part in the last rescue be what it is, is a good example of that.
It makes sure Yarra doesn’t go overboard in heroism. To the people on the New York Dig Site she is a good tag leader, showing a lot of promise, but she is no better than others out there doing this job longer. They respect her skills, which she has honestly come by through years of early training, but nothing more. On the other hand, there is the outside hysteria from the media coverage, who found out that she is an Earth girl. Now, there has been another Earth tag leader awarded the prestigious medal, but Yarra applied to an off-world university, hiding who she truly is, and that is enough for the media to get themselves into a frenzy and pick her out of the crowd.
What I’m saying, is that Jane Edwards has thought out her main character very well. She skirts the borders of what we as readers find acceptable or believable, and she handles it deftly. I can very well appreciate this kind of risqué writing, it shows skill. It takes me a bit out of the story, but with this one, I don’t mind it. I also like how she waves away the obligatory explanations at the end of the book. I’m guessing this is because she didn’t want to get entangled in a mess no one actually likes to write, but which – as mentioned – is obligatory. With Yarra injured and it happening off stage, Jane Edwards handles this with the same ease as she does any other potential problems:
“What? I should have done that.”
“Tough,” said Fian. “I did it.”
I love Jane Edwards. Did I mention that I like Fian now? I ordered those follow up books so fast after putting this one down, even though I have gone over budget for this month. I just need to know how it ends. What Yarra will do next. I can’t predict it, as this novel did nothing I thought it would. The story feels so fresh to me. I love Yarra and this story and I want more. Now. Well, all right, next week when books 2 and 3 arrive.