*I received a free ARC of this book. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: “An epic journey of a lifetime.” That’s what three young individuals from three different corners of the world have dreamed about. They were destined for greatness since the moment they were born. But what if they don’t want it? What if they’re not ready? What if their desires no longer align with the prophecy?
The problem is, they have no choice. The star has appeared. Their destiny has already begun to unfold.
It’s not the send-off that they’ve been dreaming of. Forced out. Banished. Raided. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Now they must discover who they really are while embarking on the most exciting journey of their lives. One star. One impossible task. One chance to save the world they love.
Refugees is a clean fantasy adventure suitable for teen readers and older. There is some death and violence here, but it is not graphically depicted or dwelt upon. The main focus is on the plot and the journey of the three main characters (and some side characters). There is a strong thread of Christian religion running through the belief of the main characters in the ‘one god’ Adon, and their faith and prayer in times of crisis which will make this particularly appealing to those who enjoy religious fiction, but it does not intrude on the plot to the point where it would deter the non-religious from enjoying this as fantasy fiction.
What I absolutely loved about this book was the world-building in terms of the races and their unique cultures and ways of life. Webbies, Gliders and Armoured are each distinct and the reader can vividly picture each habitat and the characters that inhabit it. Even the new animal species created here: yakamas, chamois, hydois are fantastically defined and really sparked my enthusiasm for this world.
I also love the symmetry. The pattern of Mud, Rocks and Trees is mirrored in the three races, the three main characters, the three seals and so on. The plot is fairly straightforward: there is a prophecy that the human races under the emperor (the villain) is trying to prevent, and Amanki, Brina and Moshoi are to fulfill with the aid of their friends and advisors. Each of the main characters is a refugee in a different way from their previous lives and each brings different skills to the situation.
I was slightly disappointed that the main characters are not more individual. In terms of physiology, obviously they are very different, but in terms of personality, each is good, brave, intelligent…the embodiment of desirable heroic qualities. Even their ‘mistakes’ are either correct actions that have been misunderstood, or well-meant and understandable errors caused by external factors like familial pressure or lack of information. There are no vices or faults here (as of this first book, at least) to really bring the characters to life, and separate them from each other.
The most interesting character from this perspective is the outlier: representative of the human races, Metlan (cat-rider, Grass-dweller) is portrayed as sly and manipulative, but also loyal and intelligent, wary and thoughtful. He is the only notable character who is not clearly good or evil, but a mix of the two, that could carry him to either side of the storyline, and that makes him an exciting and intriguing question mark in the text.
As this is the first novel in a trilogy, which is itself the first three books of a larger series, there is no distinct story arc that begins and ends within this installment. Instead, this book introduces the characters, setting and plot, and sets events into motion that will lead to further action in the next novel. I noted that this has been a complaint from other reviewers, as it does mean that the story stops just as it is starting to really get going. Personally I didn’t find this a problem: I felt there was plenty of action and interest in the beginning of each journey and starting to perceive how the threads will come together. It’s just more of an incentive to pick up the sequel as soon as possible and find out what happens next!
Baskrod had warned me. But I had not listened. He had expected me to leave behind our land and home that had been my father’s and his father’s before that. But I did not want to. Like the other villagers, I had preferred to soak in a comfortable mud bath of denial.
– R. A. Denny, Refugees
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