Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Greater Art by Ainsley Davidson

TITLE: A Greater Art
AUTHOR: Ainsley Davidson
PUBLISHER: Amira Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 84k)
GENRE: Science fiction romance
COST: $6.00

Fearful for her three daughters’ safety and well-being, widowed Merianne flees her home planet for Vuetha, a planet where outcasts hide and try to build new lives. There, she thinks she can finally find peace, but her daughters’ friendship with a scientist where she works threatens everything she has built. Thorne looks like a Trueblood, the aristocratic race that rules her home planet, but his claims that he’s not ring true. His presence, however, provokes latent Talents in her daughters – unique sensory skills coveted amongst the Trueblood, and when Merianne’s old enemy kidnaps them, she has no choice but to join forces with Thorne to get them back…

Dense, complicated, and thoroughly absorbing, A Greater Art sucked me in and refused to let me go until I had finished it in a single sitting. What appealed to me most about it was that, though it was obvious from the first paragraphs it would be romance, the overlying plot with its extraordinary world building plays the significant role here. The romance happens as an organic offshoot of the completely separate conflict which, frankly, doesn’t happen a lot in sci-fi romantic e-books. I would have been just as satisfied if there hadn’t been a romance between Merianne and Thorne; that’s how much I enjoyed the rest of it.

But…there is a romance, and it’s wonderfully realistic. The characters don't start out in love or lust, though Thorne is attracted to Merianne. Merianne, for her part, has no inclination of anything romantic toward Thorne until well after she's past her paranoia about what he is, which lends even more credence to its authenticity. Then there are the actual characterizations. Thorne isn’t perfect. He’s a freesearcher, which means he hires out his unique research on a contractual basis, moving from one planet to another. He doesn’t have long-term relationships with anything but his work, even if he’s a good guy at heart. Merianne isn’t perfect, either. She’s slow to trust, often obsessive, and when the two are separated for a long period in the latter third of the book, becomes increasingly human by developing feelings – albeit not nearly as strong – for another man. Together, however, Merianne and Thorne bring out the best in each other. Their warmth radiates off the page, and in the end, there is nothing I want more than to see two people who obviously need each other so much, get their happy ending.

Overlying all of this is the kidnapping/rescue plot of Merianne’s children. Thorne has his own reasons for needing to be involved that are just as important as the fact that he’s grown to care for the girls and their mother, and every step they take toward leaving Vuetha in pursuit is rich in detail and mood. The only time in the story that it starts to flag for me is once they reach the other planet. There, they are separated, because Merianne is born to the serf class and the two don’t mix. The first part of their separation is written well, but there are a few chapters where quite a bit of time elapses, and the author resorts to vague summary in order to move the story forward. Granted, not a whole lot happens in that time period, but ultimately, it weakens the climax. For all the build-up and all the painstaking detail, I honestly expected more and was mildly let down by what actually happened.

Regardless of that, though, my investment in the characters and involvement in the plot compensate to make this a more than worthwhile read. Special kudos, too, to the author for creating such vivid worlds. This was a fabulous and absorbing read.


8/10 – Dense prose and sometimes awkward phrasing, but the characterization and a compelling plot compensate


8/10 – Driven and compelling


8/10 – Warm and relatable

Entertainment value

9/10 – The only thing that mars this was the rushed through last quarter

World building

10/10 – Fully realized and believable, I was completely immersed



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