** WARNING — POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD **
I discovered a new term (to me) for a more specific genre than simply “fantasy” which describes this book. This is a ‘portal fantasy’ – one in which someone from today goes through a portal into another dimension or another world (either accidentally or knowingly). I don’t have any pre-conceptions over whether portal fantasies are typically good or an over-used plot device. It’s simply a means to establish a character as a stranger in a strange land as far as I’m concerned.
The portal device is used here as teen Saffron Coulter falls through such a portal to enter a different realm known as Kena. There, she adopts quickly to living the native life and getting involved in social and political issues. Saffron meets Gwen, who was also born on Earth and is now known as a Worldwalker because of her ability to travel between multiple worlds … except other than coming to Kena, we aren’t aware of any other world-walking. Saffron also becomes a Worldwalker and is granted a little bit of awe and respect for it. Not quite sure why or why the residents of Kena would just accept that someone can walk between worlds/realities.
There is some political strife going on and Saffron gets drawn in to the conflict, which has Saffron and friends on the run. But even the threat of capture or death isn’t nearly as concerning to Saffron as what people on Earth might think of her having disappeared without a trace. And Saffron is just beginning to discover her sexuality and develops a lesbian sexual relationship.
Author Foz Meadows is certainly ambitious with her desire to take on LGBT issues and race issues in a social sci-fi adventure. I applaud the effort but wish that there had been a stronger story and better character building so that the issues might stand out a little better.
The biggest problem is that the characters are just boring. It appears as though there is a lot going on, but the journey is rather dull and it’s really hard to get behind or care about these people. Saffron didn’t do anything to make me dislike her, but she also never rose up to ‘become somebody’ worth following.
Early on we had a couple of chapters that were nothing more than massive info dumps. Having Saffron go through a portal and run in to some people from Kena led to those people (Zech) simply telling Saffron all about the place and what to expect. I don’t make notes in my books too often, but I couldn’t help notating the massive info dump because it really got the story off to a horribly slow start.
Meadows also relies on dumb luck a little too much. One of the biggest cases was when Saffron’s blood was a the only one that matched for a transfusion. Yes…Saffron from another world/realm/reality was the only one who had the same blood. Whew! Wasn’t that lucky?!
And then came on of the biggest shocks for me… Just a little over 2/3 of the way through the book Saffron comes face to face with a dragon. A DRAGON! Okay…cool. It’s a fantasy. Except that nowhere in the previous 340+ pages is it even mentioned that Kena is a place that has dragons. (You know it’s easy to search for words and terms on Kindles!) There are some on banners and flags earlier, but even in that massive info dump early on no one says to beware the dragons. It’s as though we took a massive left turn on our journey and forgot to tell everyone that we turned.
Penance. Magic. Battle. Blood. These four words become a mantra at one point and I feel as though Meadows was trying to use these four words as the basis for the story. It would have been great if she had, but sadly these four things get lost in a morass of trying to do too much.
Books with a social relevance, particularly those of LGBT and race issues, can be really fantastic. These are issues that we are taking a hard look at in our own world. But you still need a solid story and characters with depth to hold a reader’s interest.
Looking for a good book? An Accident of Stars is a portal fantasy by Foz Meadows that takes on some tough social issues but delivers it in a sloppy, dull tale.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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An Accident of Stars
author: Foz Meadows
series: The Manifold Worlds #1
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 496 pages