Publisher: Orbit Books
Publish Date: 01 February 2022
Page Count: 512 pages
Nophek Gloss was my favourite read of 2020, surprising me with its trippy ‘bubbleverse’ sci-fi setting made all the more vivid by Hansen’s uniquely sensorial prose; she had me feeling, smelling and tasting (someone get me some fresh ramia immediately) as I read. Since then, I’ve been particularly impatient to get my hands on a copy of Azura Ghost. And to cut to the chase, it did not disappoint.
“Ten years of monotony, and now he had mere moments to decide what choice was best for the future of the multiverse as an entire concept.”
There’s an experience unique to reading a book you’re really into: you’re completely engrossed in the story and tearing through the pages, but then you reach those critical final chapters and the climax completely blows your mind and you NEED to talk to someone about it. Well, I had that experience in the first 20% of Azura Ghost. And then again at around 30%. It’s a wildly unpredictable story, not due to misdirection or surprise plot twists, but due to Hansen’s willingness to put characters in difficult positions. That, and her fantastic imagination.
“His flesh was built of specks of time from countless ages held together by the magnetism of a dead idea. His bones were fractured planes of space and his marrow became crystalline, built of infinite fractals.”
If you’ve already read book one, you can look forward to discovering the secrets of the Azura, the enigmatic Graven, and the multiverse itself. Metaphysical and spiritual ideas introduced in Nophek Gloss are explored in more detail and are central to the plot. While Azura Ghost is set 10 years after the first book’s conclusion, all the key characters are back (plus more than a few new faces), and we learn more about their pasts, particularly the origins of Threi and Abriss’ fraught relationship. Nophek Gloss focuses heavily on Caiden, but the story is told from multiple points of view in Azura Ghost.
If you haven’t yet started this series, you can expect a fantastic sci-fi adventure with the vibrant diversity of character and setting that has earned it frequent comparisons to Mass Effect.
“This planet’s soil was completely transparent. Vast root networks knotted below. Underground river systems roared, bright with schools of fish. Overhead, swarms of lightflies and bioluminescent rays cruised the dark.”
There’s something refreshing about Hansen’s character writing that I’m still trying to find the right words to describe. Her characters aren’t necessarily flawed but fallible, and she encourages the reader to see them as such, allowing them to be shaped by their mistakes rather than require redemption because of them. More than once, Caiden needs a rap on the head for things he thinks or does, but that’s what makes him so relatable and his relationships with others feel so genuine.
And if you want to talk morally grey characters, the Cetre siblings are where it’s at. Threi is definitely one of my favourite recent ‘villains’, and I think I’ll still be unsure about those inverted commas even after book three.
The Graven is one of my favourite series and an exciting addition to the diverse sci-fi being published in recent years. For an immersive read in a unique setting, I highly recommend it. If you’re interested in learning more about the author, check out my interview with her here!
Many to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger warnings: c-PTSD, anxiety, references to child abuse
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