Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: dead parent (father), dementia, PTSD
One of my favorite subgenres of science fiction and fantasy comes in the form of “what happens to the main characters when they return from their adventure?” This book is split into three POVs: one sister, Kass, who kept herself firmly rooted on Earth, her twin, Jakob, who disappeared in a first contact episode fifteen years prior, and their younger sister, Evie, who wants to find her brother but also proof of extra-terrestrials. Jakob does return one day, and it’s a race to complete a space military mission while trying to tie knots longed frayed by hurts gone unmended.
A compelling story about siblings trying to mend rifts that go beyond the pedestrian and tear into space and time amid a veritable Easter basket of Assassin’s Creed references.
There are so many layers to the heartbreak in this novel. The unresolved emotions of their father’s previous disappearance and passing several years later leaves echoes. There are mistakes that occur in that fifteen year time period. There is the grief that comes from losing a parent to dementia, even though physically they are right there. There is the distance that comes with being so committed to a project, you forget everything else. But the narrative delivers this with such grace and nuance, there definitely is an air of healing amid the despair.
If you’re worried it’s only family struggle, don’t worry, the alien stuff is very cool. While we get glimpses of Jakob’s space military reality, it’s clear that much work was done to give it a three-dimensional shape. There’s an implication of language, intergalactic conflict, and neat future-tech that’s magic-adjacent.
But the focus remains with the people involved, not so much the epic scale of it all. The hope of things getting better resonates at the end, despite the journey to get there. Much like in Chen’s first book where I got deeply upset about fried chicken (Here and Now and Then), this one made me incredibly emo about pizza.