Lleydrin is a planet at the back of beyond. It has few space vessels, few imports and few exports. It’s one city is walled against the jungle surrounding it. The jungle is lethal, full of poisonous snakes and plants, giant dinosaur-like beasts.
Kier is heir to the throne of Lleydrin and, like everyone else, has never left the city. Pampered and privileged, he has never had to worry. Until the giant spaceships of Devcorp blockade the planet. Devcorp offers the royal family a choice: sign planetary rights over to Devcorp for a suitably large cash payment or suffer a mysterious accident. Either way Devcorp will take over, enslave the people and wring every last resource out of the planet before moving on to the next. If Kier can learn fast and well enough, perhaps he could make it past the blockade and find help to save his planet.
Wren has lived in the jungle for most of her life, learning its ways with the rest of her Ranger kin to survive and even flourish. When gunships appear overhead and threaten the Rangers, Wren is sent to the City undercover to find out what’s going on. After the coup, the Rangers had been told they would be left alone if they stayed in the jungle. To save her people, Wren must learn to survive in an all new environment and discover the universe beyond Lleydrin.
I wanted to like this book. I really did. It has everything I could want: dinosaurs, political intrigue and all the action adventure a gung-ho teenager could possibly encounter. Instead, I found myself putting it down. A lot. Mostly because of the lack of a consistent point of view. This book wants to be third person but often dips into the third person omniscient, jumping into the heads of whoever is handiest. Sometimes with flashbacks. Whose story is this? The deadly forest ranger infiltrating enemy territory?
The spoiled rich kid learning that command is not as good as he’d dreamed? The exiled starship pilot drafted into building up a starship academy on a backwater planet and that’s just in the first quarter of the book. I kept thinking of Harry Potter. Throughout the series we follow only one character, Harry, except for a brief trip to Spinners End with Severus Snape. Hermione, Ron, Draco and all the other characters do things, some of which are plot relevant, but all the reader sees is how these affect Harry and his story. I didn’t care about any of these characters because there is so little chance to follow any particular thread. If the book followed two characters, maybe Wren and Kier, I feel I would have been able to engage much more.
Each scene in a novel is put there for a reason. Each event pushes the plot forward to the inevitable dramatic conclusion. In ‘Lleydrin’, there are a number of scenes that seem to have no real purpose. Two school bullies get a great deal of screen time until they suddenly don’t after their plans are thwarted. A quarter of the book goes by and they suddenly get a reprise where we find them in jail, which they deserve but is never mentioned, to let another bad guy present as a crazy person. A game of spaceball is a lovely bonding moment for our protagonists but seems shoehorned in so the prince can look back on playing with his father with nostalgia rather than being a rare moment of peace and victory before a sudden turn of events ruins everything.
There are also a few leaps of logic that feel like I missed a step or two. For a planet with a single-walled city that has had a recent coup due to an unfair class divide, the class divide is pretty stark and the superior smugness of the upper crust is rammed down the throat a bit. Every rich kid is a privileged brat looking down on the poor of the slums. I would have thought that the newly minted king and queen might teach their son about their former lives as cleaners and general dogsbodies for the old regime. Despite this massive oversight, the king and queen are still definitely ‘the good guys’ so much that it’s a bit unbelievable. If they are so fabulous, why aren’t they fixing the class divide? At the moment they have interstellar political drama to distract them but fixing the social system was why they took the throne in the first place.
The reconciliation between the old and the new regimes is done in barely a page of text and while the power of having a mutual enemy can do a lot, it’s rarely so seamless. Added to that leap, a major antagonist suddenly reveals his secret dislike of everything he’s been doing and thinking for 80% of the book, an action that ultimately saves the day in a single, suspiciously easy step.
I wanted to like this book. A young adult space adventure with lasers and dinosaurs is exactly the fun read I would pick up again and again. Yet ‘Lleydrin’ ultimately fails. Sometimes I wanted to equate Wren with Keladry from ‘The Protector Of The Small’ by Tamora Pierce but it was fleeting. ‘Lleydrin’ has many plot points and characters going for it, but the final execution just did not mesh for me. I would love to see a new version of this following only Wren and Kier so I could get more of a feeling for them and be more engaged in the drama swirling around them because there is so much potential there. Until then, I can’t recommend it.
(pub: J.B. Morgan. 266 page ebook. Size: 1907kB. Price: $ 3.99 (US) ASIN: B08NMWN3Z6)