5 of 5 stars
I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley for review.
This book is a phenomenal addition to Skrutskie’s works and sci-fi as a whole. The two main characters are Aisha, a futuristic-Muslim girl who becomes a government controlled cyborg to save her siblings, and Key, a girl from the upper tiers of society with no memories as to how she came to this life. There’s mystery, there’s action, there’s a corrupt political system, and all of these things come together to make a phenomenal plot.
There were many things I loved about this book. I love how casually queerness is handled. I appreciate that Skrutskie used a blend of saying identifying words (Aisha states that she’s aroace) and allowing queerness to simply exist (Praava, another Scela on their team, is trans without it ever being directly stated). I loved how Key’s and Aisha’s stories move apart and come together over the course of the book. I enjoyed that Praava and Woojin round out their Scela team without feeling unnecessary or two-dimensional. The relationship among these four newly-made Scela is wonderful and makes me happy; what can I say, I love a good squad.
Most importantly, the majority of the main characters are women and none of their roles are dependent on male characters. In a genre where it’s just as normal for this to be true as it is for it to be untrue I deeply appreciate Skrutskie’s inclusion of well written cis and trans women in her world. It may be a low bar to hope sci-fi writers will overcome but until more writers meet these expectations I will continue celebrating those that do.
One small disappointment I had was the cover art. On the team of 4 Scela that make up the main characters, I believe Key is the only one that is white and hers is the only face visible on the cover. I’m also not positive that the trans rep will work for everyone (though to be fair, no one rep will work for everyone in a community). The references to Praava’s identity are casual enough that if you aren’t familiar with some common trans terms (like dysphoria or hormone therapy) you might miss it altogether. There are pros and cons to this method of representation and both sides should be considered when talking about this aspect of the book.
Even with my small issues, I still give this book an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. It is everything I want out of sci-fi books. I would recommend it for folks who are looking for a revolutionary dystopia (think Hunger Games or Divergent) but in space and without a significant romantic subplot. Though I haven’t heard anything about a sequel, I hope Skrutskie continues to write about characters in this world.