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Twisted Roots

Twisted Roots

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Twisted Roots

2/5 (2 valutazioni)
423 pagine
6 ore
Feb 25, 2013


Chryse is convinced she is losing her mind, but she is determined to hold on to sanity for the sake of her teen-aged children, Cory, and Cari; she is their only family. When the voices in her head offer concrete evidence that she isn’t where she is supposed to be, Chryse realizes she would be crazy not to follow their direction, and takes her children on a life-changing journey to another solar system where the term family holds new meaning.

On the planets of a twin-star solar system that has a nebulous connection with Earth and a closer kinship with the moon, the power of Matri is coveted, but worse than that, it's missing, and Baynd, a soul-sucking addict, is using every power he can steal to find it and claim it as his own.

Feb 25, 2013

Informazioni sull'autore

Aside from writing, my other activities include tarot reading, flea markets and gardening...oh, and I am a chicken whisperer. As a natural gardening fanatic, I let my stories take root in my mind as I play in the dirt.

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Anteprima del libro

Twisted Roots - Janine ScottJean




Yes love?

Asa asked for Pachrys's hand.

Grumbl glimpsed at Aina, his smile a reflex at her sweat-highlighted cheeks. If you approve then so do I. However...

Yes love?

We may never have grandchildren, because when we find Pachrys, she is never going to leave my sight again! He laughed and urged his horse to run.

Aina all but rolled off the back of her horse as it bolted to catch up. She blew Grumbl a kiss as she passed him and shouted over her shoulder. I do hope to distract you now and again!

Their fine mood lasted for another five leagues of intermittent racing until they reined their mounts to a cooling walk and into a forest. Mirroring the light of a distant star, the dead planet Kantana shone on their path in patches as if teaching gradual lessons on deep and dark until the mass of leaf-full branches cut out all light.

It can't be much longer, Grumbl. Aina whispered.

Perhaps before dawn if we keep at a steady pace. He answered as quietly.

Soft voices above echoed their hushed conversation tree to tree, and then seemed to inquire where they were going. Grumbl and Aina stopped speaking and ignored them. Saying anything more aloud was a risk they were not going to take.

They had been close to finding their daughter Pachrys on other occasions only to lose traces of her when they moved closer. Aina suggested they try something different in tracking her this time; they told absolutely no one or thing where they were going. That included the forest reflections.

In blackness, in tandem, they guided their horses northerly. The only map they had was the sense of their daughter's faest, her life essence.


Shadowed activity behind the few candlelit curtains gave lie to what appeared to be a deserted town of clapboard structures. Kantana cast a surreal gray-green light on the surroundings as Grumbl and Aina walked down the dusty main road in plain sight of everything, their eyes keen for any disturbance.

This town is so close to Baynd’s city. Do you think he may have something to do with Pachrys’s disappearance? We've never been this close to finding her. Aina whispered.

Grumbl paused in his step and looked at Aina for a long moment. He knew her opinion of his twin brother; she had even told him at one time that Baynd would be one of the two handsomest men she had set eyes on if he didn't have evil hiding under his brows. That remark was as close to an argument he and Aina had ever come.

His argument did not spring from jealousy, but in defense of Baynd’s character. Grumbl did not want to bring that disagreement up again, not when he was so close to believing it himself. Baynd's mood had changed recently, many times. But Baynd’s mood was one thing; betrayal was another. Grumbl shook his head. Baynd had been keeping company with them for nearly as long as Pachrys had been missing.

Aina, Baynd is asleep in the camp, just like everyone else; you saw to that yourself. He said quietly.


I know how you feel about him, Aina, but he doesn't have many friends and we are his only family. Grumbl took a step then paused again on a thought. He is making a government though and when people try to rule others, the odds of treachery increase. So there may be something to your suspicion. He took Aina’s hand in his and started walking again. But if he is involved, I am sure he is a victim as well.

Aina’s only response was a gentle squeeze to his hand.

Finding the building their daughter was in did not present a problem; their senses honed in on target. Toothy railings guarded the open double doors of the shop. The darkness within created the look of a gaping maw. Grumbl and Aina shivered with premonition.

Aina looked up to the second level windows and put a hand on Grumbl's arm. His muscles tensed under her hand when he followed her glance up to see Pachrys's face. Grumbl stared for a moment. He did not think it was his imagination or Kantana’s reflection that colored his daughter's face an eerie white. Pachrys's lack of expression bolstered his unease.

He cupped Aina's pain filled face in his large palms. Aina, it has been nearly half a season since we have seen her. We can not expect there has been no change. He stared until Aina dropped her eyes to his and nodded. Be ready then, he said, then scanned the area quickly and ducked into the doorway.

Aina stood with her back against the rails and watched the windows of the other buildings for movement. She spun around at hearing a gasp from the building she guarded and looked up to the window where their daughter was sitting. Grumbl stood in front of Pachrys now, and by his expression, Aina knew the sound had come from his throat.

When Grumbl walked out carrying Pachrys, Aina let out an audible sigh of relief, only to suck it back in when she saw a baby glaring at her from the cradle of her daughter's arms. Grumbl, she's too young for this.

Walk. We can think about this later. He commanded; he had knocked out the only guard.

Aina took a quick look around for witnesses then steered Grumbl between buildings to a road out of the town. They nearly ran into a stocky man as they turned the back corner of an out-building. The man's sweaty features bared surprise and he tucked his shirt into his pants hastily. He nodded a nervous greeting to Grumbl and then brazenly ogled Aina.

A woman stood up behind the man and hid her face behind his back while pulling down the hems of her skirt. She smiled timidly at Grumbl and Aina as the man shoved her past them, but her eyes stopped on Pachrys's face.

Aina saw the recognition in the woman's eyes and squeezed Grumbl's elbow. They walked faster, and then started to run when the woman stopped the man.

Jess, wasn't that the...?

Grumbl and Aina were out of hearing distance before the last of the question was voiced. Within seconds, they were out of the small town. Within minutes, they heard the town wake up.

Neither Aina nor Grumbl were familiar with the area, they just ran. The planet rotated and Na, the harbinger of daytime, lit the mountains ahead. Marbleized walls of a small gorge reproached their progress and there were scrub grass plains to either side. The forest where they had left their horses was too far south to run for it. They stopped.

Aina glanced back. The shapes of the men on horseback through the dirt clouds they created looked ghastly but the sight did not shake her thoughts. Grumbl, we'll have to fight.

Grumbl set Pachrys on the ground at his feet, held her head close to his leg and pulled Aina to him with his free hand. Aina wrapped her arms around his waist then dropped her head to look at the child in her daughter's lap. She gasped.

Grumbl followed Aina's eyes down to the baby. He did not know the name of his grandson. He and Aina were surprised to find they had even had one, and having his daughter back did not lessen the contempt he felt for the monstrous child. It was beautiful and healthy but black eyes of iniquity glared back at him. Grumbl shuddered.

We will fight then, Aina. This Grumbl stated, not looking at her or the baby, but out toward the oncoming gang. But if it is only the child they want, then we will give it to them freely.

Hers was the ultimate station to protect children, and Grumbl had always supported her without sway, but the tone inflected on the word child was one Aina had never heard in Grumbl's voice. She nodded her head, though she thought it would not be freely; their daughter had already paid a price. They both closed their eyes and prayed for balance.

Aina pulled Grumbl to stand a pace in front of Pachrys and handed him a fist full of stones then she moved to his left side and hunkered next to the canyon wall. She concentrated on the safety of her daughter then dug her left hand into the soil. Using the power she inherited when her mother died, she fabricated a stone wall around Pachrys and her son.

The posse closed in on them within twenty paces and stopped on a signal from a beanpole of a man. The man Jess, who had passed them in the alley, rode up beside the thin man. The two men exchanged heated words and the phrase kill 'em flew out of Jess's reddened face more than once. The thin man remained calm throughout. He ended the spat with a quiet statement and a smirk.

Jess twitched, then guided his horse closer to Grumbl and Aina. By the look on his face, he had lost the argument, but it seemed forgotten as he ogled Aina again. Slouching over the neck of his horse, he lifted his chin to her. We'll take the girl and the baby, woman.

I do not think that is possible Aina answered.

With only a hundred horsemen behind you? Grumbl shook his head. I agree with my wife. It is not possible you will have them.

The thin man whistled and Jess's horse retreated at the signal, cutting Jess's response off. We have no time for this exchange of words. We'll just take what's ours, said the thin man as he threw a leg over his horse’s rump to dismount. Instead of alighting next to it, he lay unconscious five feet behind it laying in a puff of dust. Blood oozed from his temple.

Grumbl hefted another stone.

A voice called out from the middle of the gang; Let's take 'em all!

Grumbl took five men out of their saddles with stones before the sortie charged.

Aina fought with the power born to her of her father’s bloodlines; she fought using nature. She grasped a patch of ripe nooseweed and ordered it to her design. The weed vined instantly, tangling the feet of thirty horses; few riders escaped the crushing weight. Other riders tried lassos, but their ropes whipped back in their faces by startling spurts of wind.

Grumbl stopped pitching stones when he realized Aina's fight was enough to keep the men at bay. Aina, not one of them has drawn an arrow or sword!

I see that love. I think that was what the argument was about, but why? She responded easily; her fight took little effort.

Aina stood at once when she saw the answer to her question making its way through the horsemen. Baynd. Her mind took in the true drama; her heart broke for Grumbl. The wall around Pachrys melded back into the ground.

Grumbl gasped; his heart felt like it stopped. Seconds after Grumbl and Aina saw him, Baynd materialized in front of the horsemen, and they withdrew immediately.

He cocked his head and looked easily at Grumbl. Hello Brother.

On the verge of tears, Grumbl asked, you've had Pachrys all along. Why?

Matri, Grumbl. Baynd smirked and looked at Aina. It was my only chance of having the Matri power.

Seeing Baynd's glance toward Aina invoked a dreadful thought. It took all Grumbl had to put the thought to words. You were hoping to trade Pachrys for Aina?

Baynd turned to Grumbl and chuckled. Brother, I don't want your used up wife. Pachrys is heir to Matri power. I simply married her. Baynd, in the face of Grumbl's incredulous expression, kept on in a chatty tone. "I will have to admit it wasn't that simple, but with a little help...and then once she became a mother…well, she knew her place. Now, I have more than I hoped for.

Look at her; she is so good with my son. My son, Grumbl. Second heir to Matri. And I would like them back. I won't have them bruised up for negligence on your part.

Aina's eyes expanded. She looked over to her daughter. Pachrys never moved, never changed expression. Aina's glare could have been venom when she turned to Baynd. Married? Son? Negligence? My daughter is near death because of you? You vile piece of.... Air whistled at her fingertips.

Grumbl put his arm out and pushed her back behind him next to Pachrys.

Grumbl? Aina argued.

Grumbl ignored Aina and he growled at Baynd. You'll have to come through me to take her back.

Come through you? You have kidnapped my family, and death is the punishment for that crime. I have every right to kill you…I think I will. Baynd smiled.

By the tone of Baynd's voice Aina knew he meant what he said, and by the laws of balance set forth by the creators of the planets, Baynd was the only one with the ability to destroy her husband complete—flesh and faest. Aina held no false hope he would not. Likewise, Grumbl was the only one with the power to stop Baynd complete, since they had no other siblings. Regrettably, she thought, the deed was not within Grumbl's heart.

She took it upon herself to try to stop Baynd, at least for the time being. Crouching behind Grumbl, she scooped pebbles into her hand then raised them on a cushion of air. The pebbles melded, grew larger and heavier, then she stepped out from Grumbl's shadow and with a silent command, hurled the growing rock formation at Baynd.

Baynd sneered. Air churned around his right hand as it hung by his side, swirling the soil below into a funnel. He swept his hand to the side, sweeping Aina's rock away.

Aina blinked, dumbfounded. Baynd used force in a manner intrinsic to her bloodlines.

Surprised, Aina? It seems I've had the pleasure of tasting one of your relatives’ faest. Baynd jerked his left hand up and a stream of air knocked her into the canyon wall. Blood spattered when she crashed into the rock and Baynd smiled at the sound of her bones breaking.

Grumbl roared and ran at Baynd.

Baynd drew a sword and laughed. I would have preferred your faest at a much later date Brother, but if you insist, I'll take your flesh also.

As Aina slid down the wall, she caught sight of what was to come. Screaming in agony, she dug her bare feet into the ground. Then, pulling on everything in her power and mind, she commanded the terrain below her family to rise up, and the air to weave from it a cocoon to surround her family, a Natoor's last will.

Grumbl ran into the wall and just as the top of the enclosure sealed, Baynd’s assault with the sword thumped against it. Seconds later the decibels rose to near ear shattering as Baynd threw the force of his temper at the cocoon. The deafening pulse of his attack was muffled and then silenced, as the walls grew thicker with sod.

Grumbl gathered himself up then scooped Aina into his arms and wailed until his voice was gone. Then for endless minutes, the only sound perceivable was his grandson suckling on his daughter's finger.


Grumbl glared at the blood-tinted saliva puddled at the corners of the baby's mouth and wondered what breed of faest Baynd had in his control to conceive the monster. He wanted to hear it cry, to prove he was wrong about the character of it. He wanted to make it feel his pain. He wanted to take vengeance on his brother. Sickened by Baynd’s betrayal, he nudged the baby off his daughter's lap with his bare foot. It did not cry but it crawled its way back to Pachrys's lap and drew blood from another finger, all the while keeping its black eyes on its grandfather.

Grumbl buried his eyes in Aina's hair and sobbed an apology for failing her. He flinched when Aina drew in a long breath and whispered to him.

Grumbl, help her to live again.

Grumbl lifted his eyes from her hair to see her staring down at Pachrys. Her arm hung down through his arms, and her hand caressed Pachrys's head. The sight of Aina's dirt and blood stained fingers brushing through their daughter's dull tresses evoked a memory of a moment not long ago when he walked into his house to see the two of them together.

Aina had been standing behind Pachrys brushing her copper colored hair, speaking of love. He had been enchanted with the graceful movement of Aina's slender hand and the color of her own hair, which Pachrys inherited. The taste of his tears brought him out of his reverie. He looked at his wife's face again. She had closed her eyes.

Aina, no! His voice was deep, quiet, and hollow, a moan shivering from the knot of an ancient tree.

Aina opened her eyes with a blink; the wetness, the only sign of pain she would allow. She raised a weak hand to his face and caressed his stubbly chin. My love, I have failed you?

No. No love, if anyone has failed it was I. I should have listened to you. No. I should have come myself. Grumbl shook.

Aina put a finger to Grumbl's lips. She smiled then filtered a breath through her teeth. Tears ran freely from her eyes. You could never fail us my lo... she took another breath. Let me help you in this so I may take my leave.

A giant on most worlds, standing over seven feet tall, Grumbl was solid as an oak; a power unmatched on his home planet. Even so, he cringed at his wife's request. He felt as if he were being axed in half.

For you my love, anything. Grumbl promised. Because of his love for her, he had no power to do otherwise.

Grumbl, we first must help the baby to sleep.

Grumbl had dreamt of grandchildren in the future, possibly when Asa and Pachrys would marry. He thought at that time any child born of his daughter would have his unconditional love, but he would rather see this child dead than know its name. In that, he was powerless also. Only a sibling could do so—complete. More than he wished the baby to die, he wished his wife to live.

Aina spoke again as if she read his thoughts. My love, you and I will meet again and we will find happiness again, we know this. Our daughter must live for now. You must hide her from Baynd. Her voice weakened with each syllable.

Grumbl held her closer; his tears dripped on her face. My love....

Aina felt nothing. Her eyes looked up at him but they saw nothing. She whispered in his ear. My dearest, Pachrys must become Matri...succession at the next revolution...of the planets or her caste may be protested. We will put her babe in a sleep. Then...then she can rest and become stronger. She will be fruitful. She will bear another son...I am sure of it. Then it can be done.

Grumbl understood Aina's meaning and turned his head, clenching his jaws. With their inherent power, he and Baynd were restricted to fathering only one child or twins, as was the case of their own births. This same natural law renders their wives sterile after one birth. He and Baynd had been taught this law of balance so they would think to choose right by their mates. He had never told Aina.

He was sure she meant the first law of balance: only its sibling can kill a faest. A sibling of the same sex had the ability to kill a faest complete—flesh and soul. A law of hierarchy—survival of the fittest, regardless of power. But that law was impotent; Pachrys could never have another child. I can't possibly tell Aina now, he thought to himself. Nevertheless, he agreed. Yes love.

Aina whispered directions into his ear. He nodded.

I love you husband.

I love you wife. Grumbl buried his face deep in the nook of Aina's neck, breathed in her fragrance and felt her smoothness as her body died.

Aina’s faest escaped her body through her nostrils, whirled through Grumbl’s shock of dark-blond hair, and swept past his lips, barely touching them. He closed his eyes to hold his last sense of her.

Her faest passed near the babe in Pachrys' arms. Only then did the baby release the finger to snap at Aina’s faest. Finally, Aina’s spirit caressed her daughter’s face, bringing a slight smile to it, and then, became one with the cocoon surrounding them.

Grumbl gently laid his wife’s body on the ground next to his sensibly comatose daughter. He pushed Aina's hair back and kissed her forehead leaving one lone tear where his lips were and took a moment to give a blessing for his departed wife. Then he turned to his daughter and grandchild.

Like a rabid animal with no fear, the babe's eyes mocked him. Grumbl considered again what or whose faest Baynd had embodied to conceive the monster. He shook the thoughts from his head and concentrated on Aina's instructions. He scooped up a handful of dirt, spit on it with vengeance, and repeated the words she had whispered to him and then ground the soil into the baby’s bare feet.

The child squirmed. Its feet kicked at Grumbl as it tried to spit Pachrys's finger from its mouth. Pachrys reacted to some hidden instinct. She held fast to her child with an energy she appeared to be incapable of having. The blood from her finger bubbled through the fiend's nostrils and immediately clotted and dried, closing up all air passages. The baby tried to free itself from its mother’s embrace. A deep coughing moan vibrated from its throat. Within minutes, the babe was still, its faest imprisoned.

Tears ran down Pachrys's cheeks as the babe rolled from her lap to the ground. With the maternal instinct no longer fueling her bodily life, she slumped over.

Grumbl fell to his knees. His first worry had been how to remove Pachrys from this cocoon to safety. With Pachrys dieing her first death, his promise to Aina would be null and he ached with the pain of failing her yet again. He wept.

His was an eminent birthright, Cogent-Virtoo, form and faest interchangeable, and he empowered the ability to take a faest into his self, to transport one if need be, not unlike Baynd who he discovered had abused that power. Grumbl could save Pachrys's faest in that way but he could only hold to her spirit for a limited time. He did not know how long it would take to break free from the cocoon, so he deemed that power useless.

Through his tears, he noticed a fine silk thread glistening around Aina's neck and he suddenly remembered her ampoule, the tool of her trade and title. She was Matri, power and protector of growth and mother by proxy to all children of all the planets, an ancient energy inherited through her mother’s bloodlines. Grumbl had all but forgotten about the use of the vials. He had never used one. He gently lifted Aina’s head and pulled the chord over it. Again, his eyes welled when he looked at her face and smoothed her long reddish tresses back in place. Even as first death takes you my love, you are here to help me.

A whisper from the walls of the cocoon brought him out of his reverie and he quickly returned to his onus. Grumbl shoved the stilled babe away with his knee and gathered Pachrys in his arms then laid her next to Aina's body. With a hurried sigh, he uncorked the vial and held it steadily to his daughter’s nostrils.

Pachrys' faest had already begun to rise, but a tendril of it caught on to the rim and pulled the rest of her spirit into the glass sanctuary. Pachrys' life force swirled contentedly though sluggish within the confines of the ampoule.

Grumbl corked the vial and hung it around his neck. Exhausted, he pushed his worries from his head and lay next to his wife’s body to sleep. He would think about what to do next when he woke.


Hanali walked straight into a tree; it woke her up. Voices from the leaves echoed her grunt. She shook the sleep from her head then looked up into the black branches. Forest reflections.

Hello. She said.

The voices rustled a greeting back to her.

Hanali hung her head in thought. She was searching for a family, and the reflections repeat everything they hear. Perhaps they could give a clue to the family's whereabouts. She looked back up into the black. Where are they?

The voices whisked out a list of names they had heard before. Hanali shook her head; the family’s name was unknown to her. She tried again. Where are they going?

The reflections responded with breezy hellos and asked Hanali where they were.

The voices were not helping at all. She hung her head again. She needed to find the family, and she needed sleep. She would not have come this far without rest, but the changing color of Kantana excited her; it was a sign that she was close to the family. The family on her future circle. The family who could potentially end the eternal conflict between her sisters.

After weighing her choices, she decided to go home. She would try another planet after a good nap.


Eight seasons (forty years) later…

It was late August—still hot, still muggy, and still many hours of daylight. Chryse Sparrowgrove rocked on a dining-room chair in the dark and focused on the line of dawn through an open window. After four years of meds, therapy, and blatant guesses, she chalked last year’s diagnosis up as another failure—an unpronounceable depression due to the shortening of daylight. The pain started two days ago—two months ahead of schedule. She took little comfort in the fact that her affliction only lasted a few hours at a time and until then, just a few months a year. She tried not to consider what an early onset could mean. Her hands pressed hard on her stomach again while she spurted breaths, as if she was in labor; the pain was that bad—as if something inside was pushing to get out. On the point of tears, she knew the pain was not the worst of it. Not since she started hearing voices.

The voices that woke her an hour ago were so fuzzy in her recollection, they had to be dreamt. But the name they called her by was haunting, like a parent calling for a lost child. She wondered about her sanity. She worried that she might not make it until her children became adults; she was the only family they had. On cue, the beginnings of a school day thumped on the floor above. Her teenaged children, Cory and Cari, were waking.

The bouts of pain were getting harder to hide from them. The first year she used the stress of her job as a children’s advocate as an excuse. It did pain her to see so much abuse and dysfunction, but not that much. The second year, the doctors concurred that it was her job and prescribed a change in career; she reluctantly retired. The third year’s bout came shortly after her parents' death, car accident. She was never really close to them as she believed a child should be but she truly missed them. Sadly, she used their death many times as a front. Too many. Cory and Cari knew.

Chryse decided to hide her distress from the kids by gardening. She threw overalls over her pajamas, grabbed a ball cap, and yelled over her shoulder to let the kids know where she would be. When she heard their response, she walked out the side door.

The garden was half harvested. The last of the peppers hung on a prayer not to fall to the ground and the meat of the tomatoes strained to break the skins. Chryse knelt and dug her hands in the soil. Nurturer of life and death, fortifier, destroyer, giver and taker of dreams. She gave all those poetic attributes to the earth, and as she gardened, the pain abated a little and she felt somewhat closer to whole.

Cory and Cari's before-school jabbering found its way to Chryse's ears. She smiled and stood, expecting them to come outside any second. Just as she heard the door open, she sneezed. And again. She sneezed without stop until a tingling sensation attacked all the nerve endings in her body. The spasm cramped her stomach and her chest burned from lack of oxygen. Oh God, this is it. The edge of panic quickly ran into a full wall, and she fell to her knees and elbows, gasping for air. Then the sneezing stopped.

When she caught her breath, she stood again, and wiping her eyes, she tried to focus on Cory and Cari. Hey kids!

They did not answer; they just stood there looking at her. Chryse looked down and wiped frantically at her clothes thinking there may be blood or some other gore from the sneezing fit that made her kids stare so. Nothing. She blinked the last of the wetness from her vision and realized they were not looking at her at all; they were looking behind her. Their open-jawed faces triggered her protective instinct; her hair rose on end and her smile disappeared. She turned slowly, and then her expression mirrored her children's.

The moon floated on the southern horizon, on top of the tree line, and spanned the acres between her barn and that of the neighbor's. It was red. Angry, evil red.

More disquieting than the color was the familiarity of it, and even more so was the feeling that the protagonists in her dreams of late were supporting the notion. There was a power in the air and she could smell it, the cause of her sneezing. The pain was gone.


Cory's interjection startled Chryse and she realized the kids flanked her. She put an arm around each of them. It looks so close.

Scary, Cari offered.

Whoa, repeated Cory.

I’ve read that the moon’s off color and large size were illusions due to some atmospheric anomalies or something like that. I’ll have to look that up again. Chryse’s curiosity softened the edge of her nerves.

The family of three stood in awe as the sun rose a bit more. The moon regressed and changed size and color.

I bet it means something, Mom, Cory said.

To Chryse, it meant a well-timed distraction from her suffering.

Yeah, it means we missed the bus and we're going to be late for school, Cari jested.

Chryse smiled at Cari and was thankful for that distraction from the moon. I'll drive you.

At the school, Cory and Cari hugged Chryse generously and said they would be home right after classes. She sat in the car and watched as they entered the building. It was not like them to be so clingy. She looked in the rearview mirror and noticed how worn she looked, how her own face belied her luck.


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  • (2/5)
    This was a really promising story that I picked up because the main character interested me. However, despite its mostly sympathetic cast and very unique worldbuilding with a mixture of fantasy worlds, science-fictional other planets, and some strangely modern fixtures in the mix; I couldn't finish it. All the characters were nice enough people (or interesting enough), but I couldn't connect with them because the prose was often awkward and the POV was too distant. An omniscient, head-hopping, distant point of view works for some books, but I don't think there was any reason to use it in *this* one. Word choice is often inexact (in the 'modern' setting, teenagers are described as "jesting". Most teenagers I have met joke or goof around rather than jesting, even at Renaissance Faires). There are also some downright weird sentences dropped in with no explanation, like: "Dogs had been outlawed on all planets by a majority poll-law from the planet Omona for vague reasoning that Pachrys’s dog was culpable for her disappearance." Am I supposed to laugh or take this seriously? The tone isn't clear enough for me to tell. Lastly, there are several grammar errors, especially surrounding dialogue tags, that an editor or even a beta-reader might have caught.This story had tons of potential as a novel, even groundbreaking, science-fantasy story with its epic plot spanning multiple planets. And with a single mom as a protagonist! But the awkward writing made it in the end, if not quite unreadable, still more trouble than it was worth to me. I have lots of other books competing for my time and attention. It's difficult for self-published writers, but a beta reader or an editor would have helped this story a lot. I hope the author writes another book (or even reworks this one) with more a more developed craft.