My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really wanted to love this. Sci-Fi, female lead and for probably the first time ever (well, maybe not but it sure feels that way), a focus on Jewish culture, all these things should have made this a homerun. It was more like a bunt.
It's broken into three parts that are definitely not evenly paced. Part one was fairly interesting as we're introduce to the main character, Terra Fineberg, and her world which is a colonial space ship at the end of a 500 year voyage to bring its inhabitants (all 1000 of them) to Zehava. Her mother died of cancer (which is where the story more or less begins) leaving Terra with her alcoholic, class-obsessed, emotionally abusive father and her brother, Ronen who moved out the moment he hit 16. Her best friend Rachel wants to be a merchant, like her parents, a commoner. Terra's father won't rest until she's a specialist (the in between commoner and Council member stage). All she wants to be really is an artist. She ends up a botany apprentice to the hard nosed Mara Stone. It ends with Terra witnessing the murder of a librarian who was her mother's friend.
In part two, which moved a bit too slowly for me, Terra makes friends with Koen, her father's apprentice, the clock keeper (which means actually setting the seasons for the ship). While the murder is in the back of her mind, it feels half forgotten (which I think is part of the reason I was disappointed. Based on the blurb, I was expecting something different). Her father keeps pushing her and Koen together, especially as her 16th birthday gets closer (because in SF dystopias everywhere, women revert to being nothing but mothers/wives even in this. If she doesn't choose a mate, the Council will do it even though their babies are grown in birthing chambers a girl and boy for each couple). She likes Koen, even though Silvan, the captain's apprentice is cuter. But Rachel wants him (and that's where the classism in this ship really rears its ugly head). Koen leads her to the Children of Abel, a rebellion against the classist society. they also fear that the captain is destroying probes so she can keep them from getting to Zehava.
Part three is slow in the beginning and too fast at the end. Terra has learned a secret about Koen and her father makes a big rash move, leaving her with no one (It wasn't hard to see either of these coming but then again I'm much older than the intended target so it might be a surprise to them). Terra is now going to marry Silvan because of what the Children of Abel want her to do. As she moves in Silvan's circles at the Council level, the Council is almost completely villainous with the way it keeps the masses down (There are only 1000 people on this ship. It's shocking to see this level of classism). As the rebellion hits a boil, the scary truth about Zehava is revealed and then it ends. Mid-Battle. So nothing is really wrapped up. You need to get book two. I loathe that. Simply loathe open endings (But if I took that personal consideration into my review it would be lower than it is, undeservedly). Through out all the parts she dreams of a boy, who isn't Koen, who might be Silvan but also there is some one else, someone she believes is her bashert her soul mate.
What I liked was the idea behind the story. I liked the tiny bits of diary of Terra's great grandma (however many times removed) who was a lesbian, secular Jew who took the chance to get off a dying Earth on a ship that was dedicated to preserving Jewish culture. I even liked that Terra wasn't the kick-ass, snarky 'strong' woman stereotype. She's average, like you could be her in the way you could never be Buffy or Xena. However, she is too passive. She never really questions anyone and just goes with the flow. In some ways that's understandable because it's such a regimented society. However, it's like will you ever do anything for yourself?
Well she does. And let me call spoilers here.
Okay the only two times Terra does anything without being poked and prodded are terrible. One time she horribly betrays a friend and she has to know how much danger she put him in. And then at the end she runs off to do something incredibly stupid and ill-thought out (though I think I'm supposed to find it romantic. I didn't). Of course I'll have to get book two to see if running into danger because of a dream boy works out for Terra.
I also found it odd that in 500 years a ship dedicated to the Jewish culture would not even know what the Torah is and it's a forbidden, lost book. Maybe there is a reason the Council did this but I'm not sure what.
But while I did like it, it took me three weeks instead of my usual one to read and I think that's because the characters just never clicked with me. They never caught fire, at least not for me. Obviously this book has boatloads of 4-5 star reviews and pacing aside, I thought it was well written but maybe just not for me.
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