Jarra is back!
The sign of a good series is that when the next book appears, there is an enthusiastic audience awaiting it. The downside in this case is that this is the third book in a trilogy and once it is finished, Jarra and the reader must part company.
Jarra bounced onto the scene in ‘Earth Girl’, Janet Edwards’ debut novel. She is an over-enthusiastic eighteen year-old archaeology student, enrolling in a course that requires fieldwork among the abandoned ruins of Earth’s cities. This is important as she as one of the minority of people who cannot leave the home planet. If she tries, it will kill her. She and her kind are referred to in derogatory terms by the rest of humanity that occupies many other planets. Transportation is by an instantaneous portal system. A recurring theme through the trilogy is prejudice. Initially, it went both ways as those confined to Earth despised the ‘exos’, simply because they were despised in turn. In trying to prove that she was as good as the others, Jarra came to realise that people from other sectors might have strange customs but most of them were actually nice. She ends volume one as a hero and has an off-world boyfriend.
In the second volume, ‘Earth Star’, the crisis is an alien satellite which appears in Earth orbit. Not knowing whether it is hostile, there is a problem as they cannot evacuate Earth since most of the inhabitants suffer from the same syndrome as Jarra. It is her local knowledge that offers the population a sanctuary. Following the clues provided, she, Fian and her friend, Keon, solve the puzzles that activate it.
Crisis over, in the third volume, ‘Earth Flight’, the focus switches elsewhere. A search is instigated for the alien’s home world and Jarra has to resume her studies. Jarra has already found out that her parents were military people. They came from the Beta sector of planets. They have a clan hierarchy and her parents’ clan decide that Jarra needs to be acknowledged as one of them. Fian, though, comes from the Delta sector. There the general attitudes are very much Victorian in nature and the prejudice about Earth residents has not gone away. Fian’s father, in particular, does not want Fian associating with her, an attitude reinforced by the fact that Betans have a reputation for licentiousness. He is prepared to go to great lengths to ‘rescue’ his son from this liaison. Suddenly, people are trying to kill Jarra. She needs to stay alive until she is recognised by her clan, Fian is adopted into it and their betrothal can take place. Then to complicate matters, they find the alien home world.
The important thing to remember in reading this book is that it is aimed at the Young Adult market. There is pace and action right from the start and, if it appears unrelenting, it is because this is what this audience requires. Some adult readers may think that these eighteen year-olds have far too much dumped on them, that they are too savvy and the responsibilities they assume are over the top. True, but this is what the market wants and what Janet Edwards delivers. Whatever Jarra has thrown at her, she bounces back.
The series is not just all-action adventure. There are also some serious themes running through it, the greatest one probably being the prejudice that all the characters have from people from other sectors. Even Jarra isn’t immune but she is allowed to make important discoveries about herself as well as other people. She grows up. In many ways, she is a trigger for the events that change the lives of others.
The biggest problem now is for the author. Jarra has a following. Her story is now told. Can Edwards create another scenario that catches the imagination of the readers in the same way that Jarra has? Jarra’s challenges are completed for the moment. It will be interesting to see how her creator faces hers.
(pub: Harper Voyager. 390 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00-744331-2)
check out website: www.harpervoyagerbooks.com