Title: Above World
Author: Jenn Reese
Aluna is one of the ocean-dwelling Kampii, humans altered a long time ago to live underwater. But those alterations mean they still rely on some technology, and when their breathing necklaces start failing, Aluna charges off to find out why. Even though that means going where no adult Kampii can—to the Above World.
This is a rather unusual story, and not at all what I was expecting. It’s mostly sci-fi (although the gene therapy looks a lot more like magic), and discovering the world and its secrets comprises a good deal of the plot. As the Kampii get their tails when they come of age, Aluna is still young enough to have legs, and therefore able to leave her ocean home and go on this journey of discovery. She’s accompanied by her best friend Hoku, a quiet boy who likes tech.
Aluna and Hoku make a well-matched pair. I’m a little tired of books that paint the girl as the big strong warrior and the boy as a wimp, but Hoku and his tech-fascination is just as critical to the story as Aluna and her impulsiveness and bravery. I also really liked how many different races show up, from the shark-based Deepfell to the snake and crab and mech people, as well as the centaurs and winged people. The dozens of splinter races offer offer a variety of strange sights and fascinating cultures.
And this is where I got a little frustrated. The book’s greatest strength is probably the fast, well-paced plot that books no detours, where sharp detail can paint in minimal strokes the shape of this world. And that’s also the biggest weakness. There’s a beautiful sketch of a world here, and I wanted to slow down sometimes and dig a little deeper into this or that piece that caught my interest. But then I’m interested in the worldbuilding as well as the characters. I would almost like to see short stories set in this universe from the perspective of different races just to get a better picture.
Overall, this is a very quick read that strikes off in an interesting direction. There’s a lot of potential for future development as well as a good story right here. I rate this book Recommended.