Summary: Sanaa Griffin is twenty years old, living on a far future earth of 3130 in one of the few habitable places called Nishikyo). Earth has been decimated. Humanity is preparing to settle on another planet (Yusei), and Sanaa herself works on designing the colonization effort.
Sanaa is suddenly pulled from her job and her normal routine to work for a man named Mark Sakai to investigate the clans that run Nishikyo. She is drawn into a world of intrigue and mystery, falls in love with Mark’s nephew Jiro, and discovers a really big secret about her family and her deceased parents that has been hidden from her.
Comments: This is futuristic fantasy mixing elements of Japanese traditional culture in the setting. There is a strong romantic subplot coupled with a coming of age story centered around Sanaa Griffin, who will soon find her true identity. The main story focuses on Sanaa and the new job she has as a spy on the notorious clans that run Nishikyo. It is a dangerous task- and she is trained in sword fighting by Jiro. The secondary story is mainly her own transition from a rather protected and naive young woman to one who must shoulder huge responsibilities. She has always had questions about the death of her parents; begins to doubt her aunt’s versions of the truth; and starts to wonder if she is really whom she thinks she is. The future colonization effort is a continuing undercurrent of the novel. She falls for Jiro her sword fighting instructor (as foreshadowed with a New Year’s fortune) which is a bit instalove; but I did get the sense that more would be coming with the Jiro/Sanaa saga in coming sequels so hopefully that will round out his character more. And he is of course, sexy, and artsy, and all that is expected of a new adult love interest.
SJ Pajonas has obviously spent a great deal of time designing the world of Nishikyo. Her descriptions of everything from festivals, street scenes, tattoos, martial arts borrow heavily from Japanese culture. She uses Japanese terms and phrases thrown in the dialogue (there is an extensive glossary in the back). I thought the strongest part of the novel was it’s world building. I have yet to read a setting quite like it. The action adventure style plot line works effectively in watching Sanaa’s character change and grow.
That aside, there were some parts of the book I found a bit difficult to wade through. It’s written in first person, present- which I like- but it adds the disadvantage of making everything from one narrow viewpoint. This is also probably why I felt as if I read too much about Sanaa’s angst. Her past relationship failures are mentioned repeatedly. Her misgivings when she discovers her big family secret descends into many, many paragraphs of internal monologue.
The dialogue is not always as sharp as it could be- too many exclamation points; repetitive small talk; and the use of Japanese words was not always consistent (this is an ARC copy so perhaps there were a few formatting typos missed). Some of the conversations were quite long and failed to move the plot forward or reveal anything new about the characters.
I had mixed feelings about this book. In many ways, I found it intriguing. A unique creative mix in SF/Futuristic is always good. The writing skill, however, wasn’t consistent-sometimes it was great; other times a little clunky. There is so much enthusiasm in the book- the writer genuinely enjoys her ‘world’ and it shows. It’s the first of a series which probably has some neat treats ahead. So if the concerns I have aren’t issues for you, I think you might give this book a try.
Genre: SF, Romance, Futuristic, Fantasy
Primary Book Format: e-book, paperback
Publisher/Imprint: Onigiri Press (owned by the author)
Blush Quotient: Pink (a bit of a rosy pink)
Smart Girls Rating: 3 Star
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(Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author for an honest review.)