Author: Drew Williams
Rating: 5 Stars
Dates read: 20 Aug 19 – 27 Aug 19
Publication date: 08 Aug 2019
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera
It’s been three years since Esa left her backwater planet to join the ranks of the Justified. Together, she and fellow agent Jane Kamali have been traveling across the known universe, searching for children who share Esa’s supernatural gifts.
On a visit to a particularly remote planet, they learn that they’re not the only ones searching for gifted children. They find themselves on the tail of a mysterious being with impossible powers who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the very children that Esa and Jane are trying to save.
With their latest recruit in tow—a young Wulf boy named Sho—Esa and Jane must track their strange foe across the galaxy in search of answers. But the more they learn, the clearer it becomes—their enemy may be harder to defeat than they ever could have imagined.
*I received a copy of this book courtesy of Dark Room Tours and Simon and Schuster UK as part of their The Chain Across The Dawn Bookstagram/Blog Tour*
D’you ever stumble across a book and author, purely by chance or circumstance and realise that you and their books were meant to be? I was lucky enough that this happened courtesy of Darkroom Tours/Simon & Schuster, because it opened an adventurous, action packed, emotion filled, space dwelling universe that I absolutely adored. I read this back to back with the first instalment The Stars Now Unclaimed and was worried this book would suffer from second book syndrome, but it built and expanded upon a great story in a really great way.
The book picks up 3 years on, following Esa and Jane as they delve into a new world in pursuit of a new gifted youth, Sho. I love Jane, I really do. I think she is fierce and badass and incredibly capable and like that a character in a sci-fi book written by a man is allowed to be so powerful, but I really thought the depth this book achieved as the perspective shifted from Jane to Esa was a large part of why this book felt more real and I connected with it in a deeper way. Jane is apathetic with a steel focus, whereas Esa feels and questions and learns which makes for a more interesting and compelling character narrative. It is also really interesting to see her interact with Sho, the young gifted wulf that they are trying to liberate from his home world. After her experiences during the first book, and in the three years between books, she has grown enough to help this youngster deal with all he goes through in the course of the book, and experiencing the shifting dynamic between Jane and Esa, and Esa and Sho was a really interesting part of the book.
The story itself is better paced that the first one. In hindsight I have realised that the first was so action packed and crammed full of adventure that, although thoroughly entertaining, there was never a moment for the characters or readers to breathe. Quieter, more contemplative moments have been weaved into this story which allows for character development and connection that was sorely missing in the first instalment. I enjoyed learning more about the past of everyone, Jane, Esa, The Preacher, and meeting Mo, a character from Jane’s past, and really connected with them on a new level.
This book also featured a more tangible antagonist. The Cyn, who is never named beyond this, is a sole menace that tracks them throughout the story and the universe within the book, and is the driving force for the plot itself. The zealot allows us to learn organically about the history of the universe and the races within the book, and opens up the past lives of the characters without info-dumping about any of them. Where the Pax were terrifying in number, The Cyn is the embodiment of fear and hones in on the weaknesses (however slight) and seems unbeatable – the energy genetic profile being completely otherworldly and unimaginable. It is clear it’s inclusion will be a pre-cursor to events in the third and final instalment in this series, and I think the use of this character to develop the relationships and abilities of the protagonists is clever.
Williams has, consciously or not, tackled major issues of religion, abandonment, inclusion, isolation, grief, disability, personal growth, and self-doubt with tact and aplomb. The book features an alien who is devoutly Muslim, and instead of degrading his religious belief, seeks to understand and divulge enough that you understand that character, but not so much that it becomes their defining and only characteristic. The book features a disabled character who is dealing with sudden and intense grief, and again does this without depleting their power, their rational thoughts, or their importance. I think the inclusion of such themes and the brilliant way they are approached and written is yet another reason that I felt such a strong connection with the book and the characters. In the same vain, the author does not shy away from making his characters weak, of them losing strength in battle, or from being hurt or damaged, for this is an inevitable consequence of battle and the work they do.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and thought it was a rip-roaring adventure through the universe, full of strong and competent characters, new and exciting worlds, dynamic and enjoyable relationships, and was an absolute triumph. I can’t recommend it enough and can’t wait for the this book!