Hello everyone! I hope you all are happy and safe, and I hope your week is going well! Today I am here to talk about a book that really surprised me in some good ways, so let’s start!
Title: Nophek Gloss
Series: The Graven #1
Author: Essa Hansen
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020
In this dark, dangerous, roller coaster of a debut, a young man sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across a breathtaking multiverse filled with aliens, mind-bending tech, and ships beyond his wildest imagining. Essa Hanson’s is a bold new voice for the next generation of science fiction readers. Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans. He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
Finalist for r/Fantasy Stabby Awards for Best Debut!
I wanted to read this book since the first reviews started popping up because it really sounded intriguing, and I was fascinated by it. But I have also read some negative reviews, too, and thoughts, about this book, and I have to say that probably I enjoyed this book so much thanks to them. Because they helped me set my expectations straight and that helped me immensely in this case. If, on one hand, this book exceeded my expectations and I loved it for it, on the other hand, there were some things that could have ruined the experience for me if I wasn’t prepared. And this is mainly revolving around the MC, Caiden, so I would explain myself in a bit, be patient!
I am a highly characters driven kind of reader, I think you all know this, but I want to start from the world-building because it was the thing that I loved the most. We have a universe so rich in life, and they all are so different and so amazing! It reminded me a bit of Becky Chambers’s universe but without all the “feel good” vibes that we can find in the Wayfarer series. I am not saying that this is a dark and menacing world, but it has the good and the bad. Anyway, a lot of different forms of life, and all of them were fascinating! (And okay, I daydreamed a bit about being a Graven because it sounds pretty fantastic! And some abilities like theirs can really be helpful!!). And the tech they have! Oh my!!
There are so many amazing things in this universe!! Azura, Caiden’s ship, is an amazing creation and it is intriguing. I loved it. Or is it her? She is sort of sentient in some ways, maybe? I am not 100% clear on this point, but I hope to see more of it around in the next installment!
And this is not the only amazing thing. They have the technology to age or de-age you, and it is not a physical thing only, it is about compressing years of knowledge, both theoretical and physical, too, in the treatment. It has some strong ethics and practical concerns, sure, but it is pretty amazing. And this was the one that stick the most with me, but it is not the only fantastical thing you will find in there!
I think that this world-building is top-notch!
And then we have some really interesting characters. Caiden/Winn is our MC, and I think he is the more problematic. He is a sheltered teen (and he was not sheltered by choice, it was awful what they made to him and to his people, but the end result is that he doesn’t know a thing about the universe out there, and this is also the way in which, at the beginning of the book, we receives a lot of info dump on this world, because while the crew explains to him some of the basics, we learn with him. And in some points it really was an info dump, but I didn’t mind, I think it was okay, and it was something that I needed too, so no complaints here!) who is moved by revenge. Revenge for him is all-consuming, it is the end goal, it is all he can see. And if you pair that with the teen personality you are really in for a disaster.
And this is the main point/problem here. I think that going in knowing this helped me be more lenient with him. Sure, some eye-rolls were present. And in one instance I really wanted to jump right in and strangle him with my hands, but all things considered, the author portrayed a really believable and alive character with all the traits of the teenagers (cynic and naive all mixed together, like his strong conviction that once he would be aged 6 years more with the amazing tech he would be able to get his revenge instantly. I really wanted to pat him on the head and tell him “sure thing, baby, sure, now hush” every time he repeats that) with their problems to really see the consequences of their actions, even more so since he knew so little of the universe he lives in, and the problems to dominate the rage and the pain.
And his hate for the word soon. Oh, how I was with him in with that one!
Anyway, he is driven and single-minded, but his heart is in the right place. He really wants to make things better for everyone, he is deeply capable to see the injustice of the world, and he is quite capable to discern the good from the bad. I am usually not a fan of teenager characters, but in this case, I think that he is really really well developed and characterized. And knowing what to expect helped me to not want to kill him all along.
And the crew is fantastic too. We have some diverse characters in there, every one of them with their baggage, and with an attitude, but every one of them with a big heart. I can’t choose a favorite there, because they all are pretty amazing. Maybe I can say that the captain is the less favorite because he is the grumpiest and the one who we get to know the less. But he is an interesting character all the same. And the others were pretty amazing. I really hope to see more of them around in the next book! Maybe Ksine and En are my favorites, but I am not totally sure!
And then we have Threi. He is not THE villain in there, but he is one. Sort of. He is quite a complex and inscrutable character. I mean, you know that he has some agenda, and you know that his loyalty is mainly toward himself, and you also know that he is in for the long game, but he constantly keeps you guessing. And even if usually I am not really interested in this kind of character, I have to say that I enjoyed him. A lot!
And, last but not least, we have a great plot, with a lot of action, bonding moments, discoveries, and a lot more. Some mysteries here and there, some runs, flight, fights. All the things you can ask for it. I devoured it and I didn’t want to put it down even for a moment (but life can really be a hard mistress! All I wanted was to just be on my couch and read this book, but she demanded that I went to work, and do house chores and whatever. Sigh!). I turned page after page mesmerized by it!
It is really an amazing book, but there were a couple of things that didn’t sit perfectly well for me. On one hand, we have a lot (okay, it is not a ton, but to me, it was a lot all the same) of violence on animals. And on the other, and this is strictly linked with the first point, is that with all the amazing technology that they have and the knowledge, I find it hard to believe that they didn’t find sooner a way to create gloss in a laboratory!
But all the other things were pretty amazing, and I am so looking forward to the next book. And do you know what is amazing, too? That the second book is out too! So I don’t have to wait ages for it, yay!
And what about you? Have you read this book? Or do you want to?? Let me know!