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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)


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OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE: Essa Hansen grew up in beautifully wild areas of California, from the coastal foothills to the Sierra Nevada mountains around Yosemite, before migrating north to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. She has ranched bison and sheep, trained horses, practiced Japanese swordsmanship, and is a licensed falconer. She attended the Vancouver Film School and works as a sound designer for SF and fantasy feature films. Essa lives with her British Shorthair cat Soki in the San Francisco Bay Area.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: When a young man’s planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy debut — perfect for fans of Revenger and Children of Time.

Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.

He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.

FORMAT/INFO: Nophek Gloss was published on November 17th, 2020 by Orbit Books. It is 448 pages split over 50 chapters. It is told in third person from Caiden's point of view solely. It is available in paperback and ebook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS Caiden has spent his whole life being a simple mechanic doing a simple job, with no plans for anything bigger. But when his entire settlement is killed, Caiden is forced to flee for his life. After literally stumbling onto a spaceship, he discovers his planet is only one of thousands in the multiverse. Adopted by an eclectic crew, Caiden adjusts to this vast new life, but is driven by a singular goal: revenge on the group who killed his family. He will have to leverage new technology, questionable alliances, and a rare ship with a unique power if he’s going to accomplish his goal, but what cost will prove too high for his revenge? 

Nophek Gloss is an absolutely mesmerizing piece of world-building. After a harrowing opening, the reader joins Caiden in being nearly overwhelmed with new aliens, ships, alliances, locations, and more. The sheer size of the worlds the author creates isn’t an onslaught, but a deep pool you are thrown into, and it is a delight to get your bearings. I absolutely loved being in a setting that was completely foreign to me, getting to know the rules and the aliens and everything in between. 

Readers will need to throw their original conception of the multiverse out the door. Here, multiverse doesn’t mean “parallel universe” as it has come to be defined in popular culture. Instead, it means that there are other, self-contained universes outside the main one that have their own physics, biomes, etc., not all of which are suitable for all species, and crossing between universes can be a dangerous or even lethal situation. Caiden falls in with a group of explorers called passagers, those who chart regions and exchange the knowledge back home for money and resources. 

The first half of Nophek Gloss I absolutely devoured. With its devastating opening and imaginative worlds, I kept wanting to see more and more of these universes. The back half of the book didn’t click quite as well for me, ironically because it was so fast paced. The first half of the book revels in introducing the reader to the world, spending all of its time on just a few days, so when events started moving in the back half, it felt oddly rushed. It frequently felt like a problem was introduced one chapter and resolved by the next one, with no chance for the tension to simmer and breathe. Combined with Caiden, who spends most of the book (deservedly) being an angry, impulsive character, and I felt myself falling off a bit. 

CONCLUSION:
That said, this is still a fantastic adventure and worth a read for those who love big sci-fi worlds. There are plenty of emotional moments scattered throughout the rushing action, and one theme of “found or forced” with regards to friendships absolutely tugged at my heartstrings as Caiden struggled with feelings of isolation in this giant galaxy. For a 400 page book, Nophek Gloss is a book that moves incredibly well, and sets up tantalizing new adventures in future books.

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