Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Review, Young Adult

Book Review: ‘At the Sharp End of Lightning’, by N. R. Bates

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Sahar's Reviews 2016 01 25 Book Review At the Sharp End of Lightning AuthorAbout the author: NR Bates was born in London, grew up in Wales, and lived in Canada and Bermuda. He shares his life with his wife and his house with seven cats, one dog and the subtropical wildlife of lizards, wolf spiders and ant colonies that seek out a better life indoors. He is an oceanographer and scientist, and has published more than one hundred and thirty scientific papers on ocean chemistry, climate change and ocean acidification. He is a Senior Scientist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and Professor of Ocean Biogeochemistry at the University of Southampton, UK. His novels focus on epic fantasy and magic realism, and inspired by his deep love of the ocean and environmental sciences. He has also recently published a small book of short-stories set in Paris, entitled “The Fall of Icarus (The Elevator, The Fall of Icarus, and The Girl)”.

Sahar's Reviews 2016 01 25 Book Review At the Sharp End of Lightning CoverAbout the book: The interwoven fantastical tale of family, of loss and sacrifice, of unexpected gifts and coping with disability and new abilities set against the backdrop of climate change occurring across parallel worlds. In Oceanlight, Yalara Narika, a winged Sea Sprite, searches for her lover over immense seas only to find catastrophe and realization that her world is in turmoil. Meanwhile in the safe suburban normality of North Wales, Einion Morgan Alban, a restless youth afflicted by a disease of the blood, is nearly murdered by a man in a white suit. Yalara and Einion must discover the causes of their near-deaths and their as yet unrevealed connections as they both face upheaval to their lives and their worlds.

Review: N.R. Bates really knows how to write. His elegant prose borders and poetic, with scenes coming to life through vivid descriptions. The premise of this book is also solid: worlds collide as a consequence of our actions. The focus on the effects of pollution remain neutral enough for this book not to become patronizing but unapologetic enough for readers to get a good sense of the damage that was made.

It’s somewhat ironic that the book’s weakness lies in its strengths. While as the first in a series, it definitely needs to spend time setting the tone, there is way, way too much of that happening. Nothing really happens in this book; it’s almost a prequel, a glossary, an explanation of the setting in which the rest of the action will occur. As I turned the last page, two conflicting thoughts battled in my mind. The first was that finally, it was over—despite their beauty, the descriptions would go on for too long. The second was a feeling of disappointment that the book finished without anything really happening.

But in homage to the quality of the writing, to the creativity that went into creating the parallel worlds, and to developing the setting in which the action will take, I would consider reading the second book in the series—which does promise to provide quite the dénouement to everything that was set up in this one.

Add to reading list? Tentatively; wait for the second one.

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