The thing I liked more than anything about this book was the worldbuilding. It is imaginative and unique and goodness knows how long the author spent devising all the details. A long time, I’d warrant. The alien races, the idea of the seven planets connected by portals and the living, thinking Khua - all good. I could have done with a bit more information about what the societies and towns in Sampati and Ferrine, but the ideas behind the story were really cool.
The plot was interesting and it was good to see a re-telling that wasn’t Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella (I will literally poke my eyes out with a spoon if I see any more re-tellings of those stories any time soon). The Wild Swans is pretty obscure and although (by necessity, bearing in mind this is far-future sci-fi) the author has changed the storyline quite a bit, it was interesting to read. The problem is, Wild Swans isn’t a very long story, plot-wise, and this is a fairly long book and it felt like there was quite a lot of padding in it. There were pages and pages that could have been edited out without affecting the story arc and would have made the book tighter, punchier and faster-paced. As it was, the story drifted in some places and I found it hard to keep going.
I also found a couple of details a little odd. One of the central conceits of the novel is that Liddi can’t speak to anyone for fear of the transmitter in her throat emitting a signal that will kill her brothers. This, coupled with the fact that her far-future society has done away with writing means that she can’t communicate and this obviously leads to lots of confusion and misunderstanding. So I kept thinking: why doesn’t she just whisper? Whispering doesn’t use your vocal cords, so presumably wouldn’t set off the transmitter. And if whispering did set off the transmitter, then presumably breathing would as well, because whispering and breathing are basically the same thing. I found this (and the fact that any society would just arbitrarily do away with writing!) quite hard to get my head round.
I liked Liddi as a character - she was brave and resourceful and I think the author did a good job of using her internal monologue to give us insights into her personality. I do think she was hobbled somewhat due to not being able to talk, though. I hadn’t realised how necessary dialogue is not only for rounding out a character but also for building relationships with other characters. I liked Tiav too, but I think he would have come across better if he and Liddi had been able to spark off each other in conversation.
All in all, I was a bit conflicted over this book. Some elements were awesome, but others fell a bit flat. I’d recommend other people to read it for themselves to make their own minds up.
I received a copy of Spinning Starlight in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley.