[REVIEW] Idyll – James Derry

Characters – 4/5
Plot – 4/5
Style – 3/5
World Building – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

“Their loss was like the sea. When judged with distance, it seemed placid, something ethereal, something that could be abided. But to dwell on their loss, to give in to close scrutiny, led to turmoil. They might start to wallow; they might drown. Fixating on their grief, drawing it close and making it the dominant geological feature of their lives, would be a very bad thing. Then again, ignoring that absence entirely could be just as bad.”

A bizarre plague named The Lullaby has Mother Earth’s second chance, Idyll, in its deadly grasp, and it seems that the only guaranteed way to survive is permanent quarantine. Three years after their father left in search of answers, Walt and Sam finally decide that they’ve had enough of hiding and move on from the family ranch to track him down. Travelling through decimated cities forgotten by everyone but faceless monsters, the brothers take their chances on a journey with their infected mother to find a cure and reunite their family.

Carefully and gradually terraformed over hundreds of years, Idyll has been shaped with the best parts of Earth in mind ready for colonisation. Rid of the unnecessary technology and life-extending pharmaceuticals we have come to rely upon, Idyll has been cultivated on the basis of earning your place, proving your worth and allowing natural selection to do her work. Beginning with the humble and tender care of earthworms and insects, generation after generation of the Starboard family has been trusted to farm creatures great and small. Now experienced ranchers, it is a large responsibility that Sam and Walt must leave behind, in the hope of a better life in the capital – Marathon.

The terror of falling into an endless sleep, infecting anyone close enough to hear the endless comatose mumbling of the trigger phrase, is exceptionally psychologically haunting. Destined to waste away and doom the people you love, The Lullaby is a brilliantly crafted motivator behind the narrative and poses much more than simple mortal threats. The details of the epidemic are well thought-out and small nods to its origins and purpose are intelligently woven into the story through short interludes. The reveal is intensely satisfying with every small piece of the puzzle falling logically into place in way that makes sense while still managing to catch you by surprise.

Our narrators’ opposing personalities make their interactions tense and intriguing, as while they have the same ultimate goals, Walt and Sam must juggle their differing methods and come to terms with their changing priorities. At times, Walt and Sam can be more alike than they realise, the dual narrative giving the reader an insight into how their time in quarantine has both wrenched them apart and solidified their shared morals and values.

Miriam and Virginia are fiery characters who push the brothers beyond their comfort zone and give them something tangible to fight for. With a mother wasting away on Walt’s basic medical training and a father they can only dream of finding, Miriam and Virginia keep them focussed on the road ahead. The sisters struck me in particular as, while they are manipulative and brave, they are still vulnerable and scared. They are neither damsels in distress nor one dimensional strong female characters, they are an honest blend of the two, characters that science fiction and YA needs right now more than ever.

From scientific discussions of the primordia teeming on the planet to the soft glow of the sister moons, it is apparent that a large amount of care and attention to detail has been paid in crafting the world of IDYLL. With a bittersweet ending that plays hope against despair, IDYLL is an exciting and heart-stopping race across a tragically beautiful new planet. Exploring both the physical and psychological effects of a sleeping curse-like plague, IDYLL challenges the reader to delve deeper into the story to discover what really caused the world to fall apart.

I received IDYLL from James Derry in exchange for an honest review. My reviews always represent my own opinion.

[REVIEW] Draykon – Charlotte E. English

Characters – 4/5
Plot – 4/5
World Building – 5/5
Style – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

In a Tweet
“Jeweller unearths a gem people will die for, gates to other worlds mysteriously open and the biggest danger imaginable threatens the realm.”

A clever combination of mystery, fantasy and adventure, DRAYKON is the first novel in the eBook trilogy by Charlotte E. English. Following two female protagonists, talented but anxious Llandry Sanfaer and the experienced High Summoner Lady Evastany Glostrum, DRAYKON threw me into a vivid world complete with its own plants, creatures and history.

When Llandry stumbles upon a cave filled with the beautiful but mysterious gemstone istore, demand for her jewellery begins to unexpectedly soar. Overwhelmed by the unexplainable fervour surrounding her work and horrified by the gruesome deaths beginning to be linked to her pieces, Llandry is instructed to stop trading and hand over any remaining istore.

As High Summoner, Eva takes it upon herself to investigate the deaths and randomly opening gates to other Realms, but as her search grows deeper and more complex she discovers much more than she was ever anticipating.

English writes with a careful flair, she knows exactly how to build stunning scenery and her characters are well developed and likeable. The two point of view characters are very different from the stereotypical fantasy heroines; Llandry is young but not inexplicably special or strong while Eva is older, capable and sensible.

I was initially a little put off in the prologue when I realised Llandry had wings as I very rarely knowingly pick up a fantasy book that involves ‘fairies’ but I’m glad I kept going. The Darklanders are essentially humans with added wings, nowhere near the classic fairy archetype.

One of the particularly striking features of this novel for me was the world building. Eva and Llandry both live in the Middle Realms; akin to our world it lays between the two unstable and magical Off-Worlds each with its own wildlife, nature and dangers.

Perhaps the most interesting element of English’s worldbuilding is the differences between the inhabitants of the Daylands, such as Eva, and the Darklands, like Llandry. Daylanders live in perpetual sunlight, while Darklanders’ eyes have grown accustom to only the light given from small floating orbs. This is a completely new concept to me and I loved the originality and how it plays a role in the narrative.

DRAYKON has a great pace and builds piece by piece to a fantastic and dramatic ending that I definitely didn’t see coming. The plot is original and exciting, the mystery genre element kept me guessing throughout and I was totally hooked very early on. As my first free eBook I wasn’t sure what to expect from DRAYKON, but if the standard set by Charlotte E. English is anything to go by I will definitely be downloading more! Sequel LOKANT is already on my Kindle ready to go!