Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Human Planets Collective sent young Ambassador Kaj Deder to the former colony planet Ostakis to establish relations. Without trade with the HPC, the dwindling resources of Ostakis will ultimately end human life on the planet. But his mission faces a huge obstacle in the form of Most Reverend Thyenn Sharr, the head of the Faith Progressive Church, who sees Kaj’s arrival as the beginning of the end of the Church. Kaj’s powerful attraction to Trademaster Klath’s son, Arlan does not smooth relations.
Arlan Klath, the son of the Trademaster of Ostakis, bears in his body the secret that the pious people of his planet want to hide. Born Cursed and inherently sinful, Arlan lives without legal rights or property. It enrages Thyenn Sharr Arlan’s father defiantly refuses to submit his son to a cruel act to “redeem” Arlan’s soul. The stakes ratchet when Arlan and Kaj form a relationship Thyenn Sharr considers ample justification to usurp the Trademaster position through the legal power of his Church.
Can Kaj navigate the treacherous currents of Ostakian politics and religion to save these human descendants of Earth? And must he chose between Arlan or his mission to do so?
“Ostakis” was a very surprising read. Surprising plot-wise and surprising that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
The main focus of the story lies on the diplomacy, which was actually really interesting. It’s told through both MCs’ POV, so we got to see the society of Ostakis through the eyes of a stranger and of a native. That was a very good choice and made for some interesting insights.
At times, I thought Kaj was a bit undiplomatic. His mission is a very dangerous one, potentially lethal, actually. And yet, he made some rather clumsy mistakes. Like during the very first meal, he refuses to eat the meat he’s served. He’s a vegetarian and I can see why he wouldn’t be happy to eat an animal. But under such circumstances, that’s a little rude and probably not a very wise decision. Not the kind of behaviour I’d expect from an experienced diplomat. And he did seem a little bit judgmental as well, though only in private. Of course the oppressive society of Ostakis is horrible, but I’d have expected him to be a little more open-minded.
Arlan was a really sweet young man. But also rather brave and fierce, despite the oppressive society he’s grown up in.
The world building of Ostakis was well done. The world building surrounding Earth in the distant future was barely there, however, and seemed rather utopian. You have to be quite the optimist to expect humanity to let go of all prejudices for good and embrace diversity of any kind and create a completely equal society.
Most surprising of all, however, were the Cursed. They’re pretty much a third gender and there’s something like Mpreg in this story. Now, I hate Mpreg with a passion and would never pick up a story with it. But in this case, it actually worked for me. Maybe because I didn’t really see the Cursed as males and more something like intersex. Kaj and Arlan are real equals, which is not something I’ve seen in stories of this kind before. Plus, there wasn’t a lot of focus on the pregnancy itself and more on the inequality and oppression of the Cursed.
I really liked the idea behind the story and I think there might just be hope that this is the start of a new series. I really hope so, because I’d love to read more about this idea. Maybe on different planets, so we get to see more of the universe.
The cover by Natasha Snow is very fitting, though maybe a little bit dark.
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ebook, 200 pages
Published February 18th 2019 by NineStar Press