Thursday, 26 September 2013

Katya's War by Jonathan L. Howard (review)

Sea texture found via onlyalice on Flickr
Rating: 3.5 out of 5, recommended
Source: ARC from Netgalley (Thanks very much Strange Chemistry!)
Synopsis from Goodreads: The battle lines have been drawn. The people of Russalka turn upon one another in a ruthless and unwavering civil war even while their world sickens and the deep black ocean is stained red with their blood. As the young civilisation weakens, its vitality fuelling the opposing militaries at the cost of all else, the war drums beat louder and louder. 

Katya Kuriakova knows it cannot last. Both sides are exhausted – it can only be a matter of days or weeks before they finally call a truce and negotiate. But the days and weeks pass, the death toll mounts, and still the enemy will not talk. 

Then a figure from the tainted past returns to make her an offer she cannot lightly refuse – a plan to stop the war. But to do it she will have to turn her back on everything she has believed in, everything she has ever fought for, to make sacrifices greater even than laying down her own life. To save Russalka, she must become its greatest enemy.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, (Katya’s World: Russalka Chronicles #1), but I felt like the world as a whole needed development. In the second book in the series you get a tonne more development, whilst also watching Katya grow as a character, until she becomes absolutely awesome. I loved reading about her moral dilemmas throughout this book, as she wrestles with the difference between right and wrong and between friend and enemy. There’s less about her technical proficiency, which was A BIG DEAL in the first book, and more about her internal strength. Her ability to know the risks and consequences of her actions, but still carry on because it’s the right thing to do is something I admired hugely about her. I also LOVE the fact that there is no romance. Katya has got a job to do, her entire world is in danger, and I adore Jonathan L. Howard for not throwing a love interest in to the mix for extra ~tension. Instead he relies on the strength of the plotting and the tension of the narrative to carry the book.

My favourite character from the first book, Tasya Korevna, otherwise known as the Chervotka or sometimes the She-Devil, is back with a vengeance, and also the tiniest hint of a conscience, which does nothing to stem her badass-ery. My one criticism would perhaps be that the other secondary characters aren’t developed as much as her or Katya. There’s a lot of plot to get through so mostly Howard focusses on racing you through the story, rather than giving you deeper insights into the other personalities on Russalka.

Russalka itself made more sense to me after this novel too, perhaps just because I’ve spent more time there now, well, in a book sense... urgh you know what I mean. The whole concept of a planet whose population spends all their time underwater was a little difficult to grasp at first, but I suppose it’s a lot like living on a space station, except, underwater. There were a few classical, Russian myth references that I recognised as being references but was unable to actually understand! This was more intriguing than annoying however as none of them were integral to the plot, and it just made the book as a whole more layered. Plus what a cliffhanger to hand on! I can't wait for the next one.

All in all, Katya’s War is a worthy sequel to Katya’s World, in some senses surpassing its predecessor. Definitely worth a read if you enjoy strong female protagonists and/or science fiction!

Katya's War is released in the UK on November 7th 2013 by Strange Chemistry. 

Have you read Katya's World? Are you excited for the next one in this series?

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