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Tonina Talks Tales

Lifelong reader with the food-smudged and bath-drowned books to prove it. I read YA and SF/F with forays into history, politics, classic lit, and *good* historical fiction. My e-reader is my constant companion.

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The Bone Season
Samantha Shannon
This is W.A.R.
'Lisa Roecker', 'Laura Roecker'

The Best of All Possible Worlds

The Best of All Possible Worlds - NOTE: I received a publisher’s ARC of The Best of All Possible Worlds via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.I’m not quite sure what to make of The Best of All Possible Worlds.The general framework for the story is that a race of somewhat-human beings, the Sadiri, has been all but wiped out in an unprovoked act of genocide. Only a small number of Sadiri survived, predominantly males. Now a large group of them has settled on planet Cygnus Beta, a place that is already populated by a mix of many other displaced races and groups, in the hopes of establishing a new enclave for the Sadiri where all their traditions, customs, and teachings can be imparted to new generations. I was hoping for a rather in-depth look at the diaspora and the massive impact such a horrifying event would have on the Sadiri and the other races of Cygnus Beta. To my surprise, the book was rather light for such a weighty starting point; rather than taking us along on a deep plunge into murky waters, author Karen Lord keeps us swimming laps across the surface. In addition to being a sort of sci-fi melting pot, Cygnus Beta also has the distinction of being home to a population that has a high overall amount of Sadiri blood. This is apparently a matter of major importance to the survivors. The Sadiri are a branch off of humanity’s genetic tree – telepaths who observe very strict mental and emotional controls. Now, because only a small percentage of Sadiri females survived the genocide, the Sadiri leaders hope to continue their culture by sending many of their males to Cygnus Beta and having them find brides with strong Sadiri genetic characteristics from this population, thereby preserving as much of the Sadiri genetic heritage as possible. To this end, the Sadiri councilor Dllenahkh is dispatched to the planet to serve as a liaison between those settling on Cygnus Beta and the Sadiri governing body. There he is befriended by the other main character, Grace Delarua, a minor bureaucrat with a knack for languages who comes from a mixed-race background typical for Cygnus Beta. To me, the idea of selecting brides first and foremost for their genes is a little creepy, but our heroine takes the notion largely in stride as she befriends and works with Dllenahkh while they visit and investigate the various Sadiri outposts across Cygnus Beta. The book is driven by the two main characters and particularly by Delarua (as she is usually called), who narrates 90% of the story. Despite a dark starting point and Dllenahkh’s rather disturbing goal, the story is more a slightly stilted romance (albeit one with sci-fi and fantasy elements) than it is anything else. There is little central plot – the main focus is on Delarua and Dllenahkh as they grow closer over the course of roughly a year and a half. The Best of All Possible Worlds has the feel of a collection of stories rather than a novel, in that many of the incidents (days at work, excursions and visits with friends/family, stops on an around-the-planet tour, etc.) are loosely connected at best. Others have commented on the similarities to Jane Austen’s works, and I can certainly see some in the rather formal dialogue, the slowly-building romance between Delarua and Dllenahkh, and the feeling throughout the story that the eyes of the “community” are watching and evaluating the pair. At one point late in the book, Lord even throws in a direct comment to the “Reader”. There are a few dark moments (the visit to Delarua’s sister’s family being the most jarring), but for the most part the tone of the book is surprisingly light. It’s not that I expected nonstop tragedy and despair, but I confess I spent most of the book waiting for the story to deepen and explore the overwhelming act of destruction that set the stage for the story. A host of minor characters come and go without much in the way of development to make them memorable. By the end, the two characters from very different cultures/mindsets have Learned to Respect, Understand, and Love Each Other (cue the swelling optimistic music). In the end, The Best of All Possible Worlds is a decorously-paced romance in a sci-fi setting, delivered almost as a series of short stories with the two main characters, the genocide of the Sadiri, and Cygnus Beta itself as the only common elements tying the tales together. Some of the episodes from the book are interesting and some are less so, but by the end I’d decided that I wanted to hear more about the genocide and the effects of the resulting diaspora Lord created as a framework for her story and less about Delarua and Dllenahkh. Judging by other reviews, however, I’m in the minority on this, so take this review with a grain of salt and try The Best of All Possible Worlds for yourself.