Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.
Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.
Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?
Ardulum: First Don by J. S. Fields is the first entry in the “Ardulum”-series. Though I must say that I’m in general not a big reader of sci-fi, the plot for this caught my interest and in the end found myself rather enjoying this novel.
It is not difficult to see that quite a lot of work and thought went into world building here. The book features a wide diversity of different alien races all with their own very unique customs and habits, a well-thought-out system of political structures and quite creative but in the context of the story plausible technologies.
The characters and their plights easily grab your attention right away as well. For one there is Neek who is the only exile from her home planet in the entire galaxy. Torn between the wish to see her family again and the rejection of her government’s policies, her internal struggle becomes even worse when she comes face to face with living proof that there might be some truth to those myths she has been fighting against after all. Still, you get the feeling that despite her conflicts, she still holds on to a certain kindness and compassion that motivates her to protect an innocent child despite the ramifications for her own position and believes.
And then there is Emn, a slave girl who has been put through a lot of pain and trauma. I was rather intrigued by following events from her point of view and how she sees the world around her. The bond that forms between Neek and Emn feels very natural and real in my opinion. I especially loved their telepathic communications which at first consisted mainly of mental images before including words as well. Characters’ relationships in general were portrayed in a rather organic, relatable way. I also liked Neek’s interactions with others like her captain or her uncle.
The author really took the job of presenting different species on their own terms very seriously. For example, she uses unique pronouns when talking from the perspective of a certain species. Though it took some getting used to in the beginning, it soon wasn’t a problem anymore and it served to give the character a more distinct voice.
I would definitely recommend this series to fans of sci-fi and just anyone who enjoys a good read filled with issues of race and religion, political confrontations and some well-developed characters. If you are only looking for some hot and fast f/f-action though, this might not be for you. It takes quite a bit for the romance to pick up but what you get instead is well-worth it in my eyes.
The cover art by Natasha Snow is very beautiful. I especially like the colour composition and how the woman harmonizes lovely with the planets and stars.
ebook, 248 pages
Published February 27, 2017
by NineStar Press
Edition Language: English