The Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price

orphansLast month I wrote about Daniel Price and an article he wrote in Literary Hub about developing strong, non-sexist female characters and how he responded to criticism of his novel The Flight of the Silvers.  After he solicited additional input from one of his readers, he writes that he took that input and applied it to his second book in the series, The Song of the Orphans. When I saw the book on NetGalley, I requested a copy.

Because his two lead characters were criticized as sexist in the first book, I broke a personal rule of mine to always read series books in order (okay I actually did that twice last month).  Using Price’s entertaining but thorough guide to Book One on his website, I jumped into Book Two.

First, I’ll attempt to explain the premise.  At the beginning of Book 1, Earth is destroyed, and two godlike creatures known as the Pelletiers save a small number of humans by transmitting them to an alternate Earth using bracelets of silver, gold, copper, etc.  The series is about the six Silvers.  There are two sisters, Hannah and Amanda, guys Zack and Theo, and two teenagers, David and Mia.  Once on the Alt-Earth, the six Silvers each develop a different superhuman power.  They flee the scientists who want to keep them in a lab, and then are pursued by a group of superhumans called the Gothams, and the Alt-Earth version of the FBI.  Complications and battles ensue.

Book Two begins with the six Silvers being found dead in a theater.  They aren’t actually dead, so this is either a weird time loop or it’s some kind of hoax.  The Silvers have learned that their new planet is on the same course of destruction as their last one, and so their mission is to use their powers to stop what’s coming.   Unfortunately, the Silvers  are merely puppets, and the Pelletiers are pulling the strings.  I was reminded of the Q character from Star Trek TNG, only the Pelletiers are way more manipulative.  The Silvers need help but they can’t trust anyone.

These books are quite long and complicated, but easy to read.  They would work great as a TV series, with all the different characters and plotlines.  There’s plenty of action, and Price has created a really interesting world.  Some of Price’s powers are pretty inventive, most revolving around time.  Mia receives cryptic messages from her future self.  Hannah can move super-slow or super-fast, causing time to either speed up or slow down.  David can recreate the past.

I’m happy to say I did not find Price’s characters or writing to be sexist, nor were they tropish or superficial.  Interestingly, Price says the lead characters in Book One were Hannah and Amanda, but I did not find that the case in Book Two.  I’d say Zack and Mia were the lead characters if anyone was and both were characters I really liked, partly because they go through very rough times in this book. I will say, however, that the book suffers from having so many characters, it’s difficult to fully develop any of them.  While Zack is pretty distinctive, Theo is not, and I frequently confused the two in my head.  I sometimes confused Amanda and Hannah.  Maybe it’s because I wasn’t properly introduced to those characters in Book One.  But I tend to like stories focused on a few characters rather than a big ensemble, so I struggled with that here.

Price introduces two new characters, Jonathan and Heath. Heath is interesting, a young boy on the autism spectrum, forced to adapt to an entirely new world.  I found Jonathan uninteresting (except for his superpower) and not fleshed out at all.  Aside from being Heath’s friend/guardian and a love interest for one of the female Silvers, he doesn’t seem to have a personality in his own right.

This book is a fun science fiction read – it’s long, but a page turner — if you’re looking for world-building and interesting characters and powers.  It doesn’t explore scientific concepts in any great depth, so if you’re looking for deep thoughts, you’ll be disappointed.  It’s more a whirlwind of a book, a roller coaster ride.  For many it will be a perfect summer read.  I can’t say whether you should start with Book 1 or not, but I’d love to hear if you’ve read either one and what you thought.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from NetGalley and publisher Penguin Group.  The book was released July 4, 2017.

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