Riven by Belinda Crawford

rivenI received a copy of Riven from author Belinda Crawford.  Last year I reviewed Hero, the first in the series, and loved it. I didn’t enjoy Riven quite as much, but I still want to see where the series goes.

The Hero Rebellion is a science fiction, young adult series that takes place on the planet Jorn.  This is a world where the ground has been infected by Pollen so humans all live in cities in the air.  Hero is a telepath who is struggling to learn and use her abilities.

Second books in a series face a lot of challenges.  An author has to continue the story with just enough background from the first book that the reader isn’t lost.  The story has to keep moving but a Book 2 is usually going to raise more questions than it answers, and it’s really a bridge between the character-setting and world-building of the first book, and the meat of the story that maybe happens later.

Some of the things I really liked about Hero (Book 1): the main character is young and angry, but with good reason.  She’s been sheltered all her life, kept from other kids and lied to about her abilities, even forced to take drugs to reduce her telepathy and told she’s mentally ill.  I also really liked the world-building, which has unique characteristics like genetically-modified animal companions and emotions that are read by Hero as scents and colors.

Riven is much faster paced, and instead of reading about Hero making new friends and adapting to her new school, we get a lot more chases and fight scenes.  It’s more on the adult side, and I expect a lot of people will like this one better for that reason.  I’m always partial to the slower pace of a Book 1, where you get to know the characters better.  Here I found the pace a bit too fast, and I struggled at times to follow what was happening.

What I struggled with in this book is that I had a hard time sympathizing with Hero.  We learn that she’s got the memories and emotions of a dead person inhabiting her brain, and this is clearly NOT a nice person.  She lashes out (emotionally and physically) at the people she cares for. She’s a bit like Harry Potter in Book 5 (my favorite of the books); he can’t control his thoughts and it’s clearly all going wrong, but he’s too much of a teenager to ask for help.  And like Harry Potter, she has to take on enormous responsibility and make very difficult choices without much information.  So it’s not Hero’s fault, but I wish we saw her struggle a bit more with this conflict.

One of the really interesting storylines is about Hero’s beloved companion Fink, a genetically engineered ruc-pard.  He’s devoted to Hero, but as a large, ferocious beast he can be a threat to everyone else.  Hero learns from a trainer that he may not have gotten enough socialization from other ruc-pards to learn to control himself — and if he can’t control himself, he’ll have to be put down.  Hero freaks out when she learns this, which is completely understandable, except I kept wanting her to consider what would be best for Fink, instead of just reacting like the world is trying to take Fink away from her (again, I have to remind myself that Hero is reacting like a teenager).

By the end of the book I was left with mostly questions about the mission Hero and her friends are on.  It’s not clear how much Hero is being controlled by what’s in her head, and by The Librarian, who has a different agenda.  The book ends in an interesting way that’s a great set-up for the next book.

This series is very much worth a look if you like YA science fiction.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author and publisher Odyssey Books, in exchange for an independent review.  This book was published October 4, 2016.


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