Artemis Awakening

18490706 Y’all know by now that I am a huge advocate for the library and that most of the books I read are from the library. Most of the time this is great, but every once in a while it causes me to miss something I would like to have read sooner. Nevertheless, when my library acquired an ebook copy of Jane Lindskold’s Artemis Awakening, I checked it out immediately. Look at that cover. Everyone who knows me knows I love cat characters (of all sizes), so that gorgeous puma face drew me in on sight. The premise of Artemis Awakening intrigued me:

When the Empire fell, the location of the planet Artemis was lost, although legends remained to tantalize historians.  When ambitious archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints as to the location of the lost planet, he sets out alone to confirm his find.  When Dane reaches Artemis, his shuttle crashes – perhaps not by accident.  Stranded, with no discernible way to get home, he forms an uneasy alliance with the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow.  Together they set out to find a way to get Griffin home, along the way uncovering some of the secrets that lie beneath the planet’s wilderness exterior, secrets that may lead to the recovery of weird powers far beyond what humanity now dares to dream. (janelindskold.com)

The novel is told primarily from Griffin’s perspective at first, but shifts to Adara more as the story progresses. The coolest thing about the book, in my opinion, is the depth of characterization Lindskold provides her characters. Though Griffin comes from a more advanced society than that of the Artemesian inhabitants, he turns out to be remarkably ignorant. Luckily for us, he’s pretty self aware about that fact and is constantly checking himself for his somewhat limited views of Adara and the other Artemesians.

He assumes, at first, that they are charming primitives because they haven’t developed much (in his opinion) since “The Empire” (known as the seegnurs to Artemesians) abandoned the planet five hundred years ago. At first he’s constantly surprised by the evidence that the people he meets are more than backwater servants. This irritated me about him, at first, but it’s actually an astute commentary about how the “civilized” world often views what they consider “primitive” cultures. Stranded on Artemis, Griffin is forced to get over his objectification of the Artemesians as genetically engineered servants and see them as human beings.

As interesting as I found all that, it’s Adara that really shines here. Adara is probably the most level-headed heroine I’ve come across in years. My favorite thing about her is that she’s not without passion, but she’s completely willing to put it on hold in favor of getting to the bottom of the deeper mystery at hand. From the beginning, she’s wary of Griffin. Even in her kindness to him, she never completely forgets that people like him created her planet and its inhabitants to serve.

In the most technical sense, there is a “love triangle” in this book, but it’s anything but tortured. Adara finds herself attracted to Griffin, but is equally attracted to her local love interest, Terrell. She knows they’re both interested in her and when they’re thrown together on the journey to find a way home for Griffin, she treats them as friends, rather than potential suitors. I kept waiting for them to get whiny and competitive about her attention, but other than some mature acknowledgement that they are romantic rivals things are pretty low-key. Terrell makes no secret that he loves Adara, but he’s not pushy about it or overly jealous of Griffin.

In fact, one of the awesome things about the book is that Terrell and Griffin become friends. Lindskold’s portrayal of friendship, in general, is one of the best parts of the novel. It’s clear that Adara has genuine friendships with the men in her life, as well as her demiurge, Sand Shadow. Lindskold doesn’t go into much depth about how the demiurge relationship is developed, but we can see that Adara and Sand Shadow have a deep and abiding kinship with one another. Sand Shadow teases the serious Adara frequently, which is fun to read. I do wish there were more female characters, but I’m hoping that some of the women introduced at the end will play a bigger part as the series goes on.

Before I close out, I want to touch on the Old One Who Is Young, since he is the villain of the novel. If I go into much detail, I’m afraid I’ll spoil some of the mystery, but I’ll say this: he’s completely awful. {Minor Spoiler Alert} Those who may be triggered by rape and child abuse should enter this story with care. It’s not gratuitous and I felt that Lindskold handles the Old One Who Is A Totally Horrible Person’s crimes with sensitivity to his victims. One of the things I appreciated most about how Lindskold portrays the Old One is that she effectively shows us how he’s fooled those around him into believing he is wise (and overall, good). Adara, Griffin and Terrell are all taken in by his facade at one time or another. He’s a villain you can hate, that’s for sure, but he’s more complex than the typically 23168787“evil for evil’s sake” villains that sometimes appear in sci-fi and fantasy.

This is the first book in a series and some may find the pace a bit slow. Artemis Awakening isn’t a rollicking adventure; it’s a careful journey to uncover a mystery. Also, as a helpful hint, don’t write off the “interludes”– they’re meaningful. Lindskold leaves a lot of ends untied, so this book doesn’t stand alone. I felt there was a satisfying end to this part of the story, with plenty left for the next book in the series,  Artemis Invaded (coming out at the end of June), which I’m very excited to read.

Allison is a writer, reader, teacher and human companion to a tiny leopard, Winnie. Say hi on Twitter or skip straight to Instagram to find out what Winnie’s up to today.

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