Photo by Octavian Rosca on Unsplash
It’s 2257 and it’s been a century since humans first encountered the Adryil. In exchange for their technology, Earth has provided the alien race with something profoundly human. The performing arts.
Iris Lei is a child born at Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school, and is desperately trying to climb her way to the top of the ranks so that she could be noticed by the Adryil elites. Only the best of the best get hired by patrons and being 15, Iris is feeling the pressure as artist “age out” at 21. However, a chance encounter turns her world on its head.
When Iris runs into an Adyril boy on campus, her curiosity of his people gets the best of her. Through an Adyril device that Iris knows is highly illegal, the two begin an unlikely relationship. However, as their bond deepens, Iris begins to suspect that he’s hiding something from her. Something that can put her life in danger. As her search for answers pulls her away from the small, sheltered life she’s known, Iris soon finds out that the promises of a better life on Adyre are nothing but pretty words laced with sinister intentions.
Man is this what people call a space opera? I haven’t read much science fiction mostly because I’ve always leaned more towards fantasy, but this was something that caught me by surprise. The premise itself was enough to have me pick it up and having an East Asian protag was just the cherry on top.
Mary Fan did a great job at creating a very unassuming, sheltered, yet good protagonist without making me want to tear my hair out. There are some sheltered protagonists that really bother me because they really border on niave and dumb. However, Iris didn’t come off that way. Being born in Papilio, Iris really doesn’t know anything besides the arts and what she’s been fed all her life so her sheltered outlook on life was understandable, however she wasn’t niave. She more gave off the impression that her mind was so focused on her performances, that she never really looked away and took in the world around her. However, Iris is quick to learn. When she starts to see how the pressure of success and the competitiveness effects the students, she starts to question her world at Papilio. So while Iris starts out in the book as someone who’s sheltered and uninformed, she’s grown considerably by the end of the novel. I actually felt kind of proud of her by the end of it. Iris discovers a strength she didn’t know she had inside of her and gets things done whether or not it scares her. Definitely a Gryffindor if I’ve ever seen one.
The world building was well done for Papilio, but I felt like it was slightly lacking in Adyre. This could be because we don’t get to Adyre until about 50% into the novel, but I felt like we could’ve had a bit more description. However, both societies seem so similar that I didn’t find anything specifically hindering the storytelling overall. What I did like was that Fan adds a glossary at the end of the novel. This is really interesting considering that, since the story is told in Iris’s perspective, there are a lot of moments that are spoken in the Adyril language. If I really wanted to, I can go back and forth between the glossary and try and translate some of the discussions that were being had. This is a fun little thing that makes my geeky heart melt. My curiosity is getting the better of me, so don’t be surprised if I start going crazy over it on my twitter.
A huge component of this novel that I really enjoyed was the romance. I’m a total sucker for the star crossed lovers trope and everyone who knows me knows that I love a slow burning romance. Slow burn romances are my life, give me all of them. Iris’s relationship with our Adyril boy never felt disingenuous. There was so much genuine love from both of them that I couldn’t help but fall in love with their relationship. While there was arguably reasonable suspicion on Iris’s behalf, Damiul does everything he can to gain her trust and apologizes for things when he does something wrong. I hate that apologizing is a trait I should be praising, but that’s for another time. I was rooting for them the entire time.
There was a slight time that I felt like Iris was a bit detached from her culture, but Fan touches on this later on in the book when Iris encounters a performance from a group of dancers from East Asia. It touches on how Iris really is sheltered and barely knew Earth before she could even begin to understand Adyre. While Iris is East Asian by descent, she has no idea of the culture or of their languages. I think this is something that can be understood by Asians living in diaspora, especially those that are four, five generations from the original immigrated relatives.
This novel is a great start of a series. I’m expecting a lot more action and a lot more revolutionary stuff to happen in the next book, but I like how this one gave us the foundation. We’ve got the heroes we’re standing by and fighting for, we’ve got a clear motive, and we’ve got a clear antagonist. There are a lot of things left open and I’m curious as to how Fan will explore them in the next book and I can’t wait to see my darlings Iris and Damiul again.
I’d like to thank Snowy Wings Publishing for providing me with this eARC.
Author: Mary Fan
Published: August 29, 2017 by Snowy Wings Publishing
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