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Friday, March 4, 2022

Azura Ghost by Essa Hansen - Review

Official Author Website
Links to buy the book HERE
Fantasy Book Critic's review of Nophek Gloss HERE
Additional Fantasy Book Critic review of Azura Ghost HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: 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 lives with her cat in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As a sound designer for SF and fantasy films, her credits can be found on IMDB.

Format/Info: Azura Ghost was published on February 1st, 2022 by Orbit Books. It is 475 pages long split over 50 chapters. It is told in third person from Caiden and Leta's POVs. It is available in ebook and paperback formats.



OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: For ten years, Caiden has been on the run. His ship, the Azura, is the only thing in the multiverse that can release the Dynast leader Threi from his prison, and after seeing Threi’s terrifying power, Caiden is determined to never let that man go free again. But after years of solitude and avoiding friends, Caiden is lured back to the center of the multiverse with the news that a friend long thought dead is in trouble. It isn’t long before Caiden is caught in machinations of both Threi and his sister Abriss, each of whom has very different plans for the multiverse. One thing is clear though: they both need Azura and her Graven properties to pull off their plans, and Caiden alone may not be enough to keep her safe.

Azura Ghost is a highly inventive sci-fi tale that balances action and cerebral discussions in equal measure. The author’s strength in this series has always been her willingness to create strange and unfamiliar creatures and worlds, making this a perfect book for someone who wants to sink into a futuristic setting that has little in common with our own. It does, however, mean that you have to be in the right headspace for this book, as it takes a bit of commitment to wade through new technologies and discussions of luminiferity, and rinds, and other esoteric concepts.

There are plenty of moments in this book where the pages fly by, as characters are chased through a city, combat erupts on rooftops, or a space battle ensues. But there are equally tense moments that come from characters discussing the intent and future of the multiverse. The age-old question rears its head here: is a life of equality and peace worth giving up most, if not all, of your free will? Or is chaos and struggle and the ability to make individual choices where life really shines? It’s the heart of the conflict between Threi and Abriss, and while each has points, you’re kind of stuck with deciding which is the less terrible option.

I found that the author has really grown from her first book, Nophek Gloss. While I appreciated the creativity she displayed previously, I struggled with some pacing issues and character decisions in Nophek Gloss that felt rushed. That’s not the case here, as the author has given the characters time to breathe and work through their issues. While the story is told from both Caiden and Leta’s perspectives, Leta is the one who truly gets a chance to evolve and wrestle with her world view, and I appreciated her growth over the story. The one big note I had about characters in Azura Ghost is that I found myself wishing for a character list to track the eight Proxy creatures Abriss employs, as each Proxy had a synthetic and an organic body, and their brief introductions weren’t enough to easily cement who was who in my head.

CONCLUSION: Azura Ghost is not the easiest book to get into. I will fully put onto the table that I sometimes had to put the book down because I was personally not in the right headspace to wrap my head around some of the denser topics of consciousness and DNA and physics that get discussed. It’s not quite hard sci-fi, but out there enough that you have to be willing to embrace the weird. But if you can meet this book on its terms, it’s a wonderful story of two characters caught on opposite sides of a conflict, desperately trying to unpack their own lives and relationships as the fate of the multiverse is decided around them. While Nophek Gloss was focused on immersing you in its worlds, Azura Ghost wants to immerse you in characters, and it pulls that off with great success. Now to wait for book 3, Ethera Grave, to see where this trilogy and conflict heads in its finale.

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