Review: Ancestral Night

Ancestral-Night-678x1024Title: Ancestral Night (March 5, 2019)
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Pages: 512
Series: 
White Space #1 (Series Tracker)


My first foray into Elizabeth Bear’s work was her excellent 2017 fantasy novel The Stone in the Skull, which I enjoyed immensely. I knew that Bear is known for writing in a multitude of genres, but I wasn’t prepared for the genre whiplash I experienced when I picked up the space opera Ancestral Night. The book follows Haimey Dz, a space salvager who uncovers a piece of ancient alien technology that, in the wrong hands, could be catastrophic for the galaxy at large. …lo and behold, space pirates are hot on Haimey’s trail.

This is really sharp, smart science fiction that goes deep on the details and philosophy of its world and Haimey herself. Bear’s vision for the future of space is so intricate and sophisticated that a lot of it flew way over my head. Tonally, it’s quite cold and calculated, which made it difficult for me to form lasting emotional connections to the characters. I enjoyed learning about Haimey’s backstory and witnessing her connection to her shipmates, but those moments of humanity seemed fleeting. I think the plot description makes this sound like an exciting space adventure, but I found it to be quite slow, contemplative, and unevenly-paced overall.  The prose is dense and difficult to penetrate at times, with many of the scientific elements pushing well beyond my realm of understanding.

I could certainly see this winning some awards because it really feels like next-level science fiction and more advanced than most of what I’ve read in the genre. Personally, I wasn’t able to connect with the story, but I come away from the reading experience even more impressed with Bear’s skill as a writer and would not be surprised if others enjoyed this more than I did.

★★★ out of 5

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Stone in the Skull

STONE-IN-SKULL-final-740x1124Title: The Stone in the Skull (2017)
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Pages: 368
Series: 
Lotus Kingdoms #1 (Series Tracker)

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Set in the same world as Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy, The Stone in the Skull tells the story of the Lotus Kingdoms, where two separate rulers attempt to overcome dangerous omens and the threat of war to protect their people.

This was my first Elizabeth Bear novel and it certainly won’t be my last. I can’t say I’ve read anything so gorgeously written with a setting so brilliantly realized.

I wasn’t sure that this book was for me in the very beginning, but by the second chapter I was completely hooked. This chapter introduces Mrithuri, the ruling rajni of Sarathai-tia, in beautiful fashion. In this section and beyond, Bear infuses the narrative with colors, aromas, tastes, and the like. It’s a masterclass in how to appeal to the senses of the reader. This amount of detail further enriches a fascinating setting, where unique customs and the physical makeup of the world combine to form a finely woven tapestry of worldbuilding.

Although the Gage and the Dead Man are billed as the main characters, it’s really Mrithuri and Sayeh who steal the show. They are strong, regal leaders who care deeply about their reigns and their people. I moved slowly through their sections to better savor each moment of their beautiful storylines.

All in all, The Stone in the Skull is one of the best books I’ve read in a good long while. It is fresh, engaging, and was a joy to read. I look forward to the sequel and a return to this wonderful world.

★★★★½ out of 5