Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Half selkie Caiden is unhappy that as a Mythica he is unable to serve his country as his father had done. In fact all Mythicas are banned from service because they might not be able to handle the stress, changing forms in combat. While Caiden agrees intellectually with that assessment, emotionally he’s frustrated and taking his discontent out on those around him. Its even affected his viewpoint of the sy’lph, an alien race that arrived on Earth seeking sanctuary and a home after their galaxy was destroyed in a war.
But when a minotaur goes wild at the government offices of the Bridging Lives agency (a sort of Social Security other being checkpoint and social agency), Caiden jumps in to stop the minotaur and his world changes forever. First he is rescued by Gray, a sy’lph who is the local liason between humans, mythica and the sy’lph. Gray is gorgeous and Caiden is overwhelmingly attracted to a being he has resolutely disliked. Secondly, the minotaur had been poisoned.
Soon all the mythicas are under attack. And Gray and Caiden take their first steps towards understanding and a relationship just when everything starts to fall apart around them, putting themselves and Caiden’s family in danger.
Mythica by L.J. LaBarthe is a book that defies categorization, something that surely thrills its author. How to describe a beautifully written story that encapsulates human mythological creatures come to life, along with an alien race fleeing galactic genocide and bringing inhuman technology with them. Then throw in a interspecies romance, racial purity rights terrorists, and much, much more and you have Mythica – scify, supernatural, paranormal, action, suspense, mystery romance! I would expect nothing less from L. J. LaBarthe.
From the opening lines, the author pulls you into the joy of Caiden’s life as a half selkie! He is frolicking in the ocean waters near home which is Broome in Western Australia:
Dolphins swam up to join him, and he grabbed the dorsal fin of the nearest one, laughing when he surfaced and breathed in air again. The dolphin dragged him along through the water at a rapid rate, making him whoop with delight, a sound echoed by the raucous cries of the seagulls hovering overhead. Schools of fish swam below him, sometimes their silvery bodies brushed against his toes, and Caiden loved that too, the feeling of being so free, so connected to all the elements—water, air, light, earth. The dolphin that pulled him along through the water brought him close to shore, and Caiden felt the soggy roughness of sand beneath his feet. He let go of the dorsal fin, calling a thank you and goodbye to the dolphins as they swam on.
LaBarthe conveys the lightness of being and the spontaneity of Caiden’s selkie behavior in the waters. And just as quickly, the author is able to ground Caiden in his human half, complete with his discontent and unhappiness at leaving the watery haven behind as he reluctantly arrives at the Bridging Lives agency. LaBarthe has created with her “mythicas” a fascinating new group of beings (albeit from an ancient beginnings). The mythicas are
“Mythica were the descendants of all mythological creatures of antiquity—the pixies, fairies, selkies, minotaurs, dragons, and more—who lived and worked alongside humans.”
Caiden himself is half mythica, his father human and his mother a selkie, a human/mythica pairing not uncommon in this story. The author is quick to give Caiden a painful past made bearable by a supportive, loving family, only some of which are mythicas. Broome is pictured as normally as is possible when mythicas and aliens such as the sy’lph casually walk about its facilities and streets. There is an authenticity to each scene that is wonderful considering who and what is appearing throughout each description and event.
Also marvelously imagined are the sy’lph. Alien beings of mallable metal (think mercury) whose real shape and body is confined within a synthetic humanoid shell. Just seeing their true shape/body is enough to blind any human. Their back story and natural history is as complex and captivating as everything else that LaBarthe has created here. But while all the outside elements are fantasical in nature, inside there exists a lovely romance between two beings/people trying to learn about each other and work their way towards something more lasting and real.
Interspersed throughout the myriad of plot threads is the threat to Caiden, his family and all mythicas. It isn’t long before the villain of the pieces appears and the uncertainty and dread that comes with this nasty little storyline
is yet one more element that will keep the reader engaged and deeply involved in Mythica until the ending. Which I was sorry to see arrive.
Mythica has such a wide appeal and such a ingenious universe, that I hope to see LaBarthe revisit it again in another story. Both the mythicas and the sy’lph deserve to have their stories told. But while we are waiting for that to happen, pick up Mythica and see why I recommend it so highly. Never has such a concoction of genres been so appealing.
Cover by Mumson Designs is lovely, and captures the joy of Caiden perfectly.
Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published September 18th 2014 by Bottom Drawer Publications