Zepharius Vol. 1 + 2 – Mel Snyder

*I received free copies of these books, with thanks to the author.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Blurb: The planet Gisaawek is prospering in its government and is growing in military power and security. Everyone is dedicated to their assignments. Their objective is serving their planet to the best of their ability.

Zepharius is a soldier in Gisaawek and works with that objective in mind.

Throughout the years, however, she becomes aware of abnormalities that reside within her world. People do not speak to each other unless it is necessary for them to do so. Improving strength on the planet is their only objective. Events and memories before a certain point in time have been obliterated.

More importantly, there are people within the planet which disappear faster than they are appearing. Their existence is dubbed “dangerous and forbidden”. They are Gisaawekians who have an ability to choose their own objective, which can lead to destruction of both themselves and the planet. They are called dïfakàténs.

She comes to realize that the world she lives in is not as perfect as it seems. What will happen when she comes across secrets that could explain why?

Zepharius is a dystopian sci-fi novel in parts, featuring alien races and inter-planetary politics.

In this first volume, we are introduced to the titular character as she realises that her race has been somehow reprogrammed from their previous familial, peaceful existence into super-soldiers who obey without question. As one of the few who is conscious of the change, and still able to question her instructions, Zepharius realises she is in danger from the very authorities that she serves and is forced to strike out in an attempt to find fellow rebels and try to work out what has gone wrong with the world she loves.

This is a slow-starter in some ways, picking up pace and action later in the story, but I was drawn in quickly and couldn’t stop reading, wanting to know more about this alien world and the races described. Snyder avoids getting bogged down too much in information dumping and unnecessary detail, keeping the reader wanting to know more about the setting and characters, then rewarding us at the end of the book with an array of bonuses – including really useful sketches of maps, weapons and races.

I was hooked in by Zepharius and her companions, and her life of body modifications, brain programming, political espionage and soldier’s discipline. The ending is left open, obviously, as this story forms part 1 of Zepharius’ adventures and I was keen to move straight onto volume 2 and find out what happened next.

“What do you mean you weren’t aware?” He smiles, questioning my lack of concern for my own status.

I tilt my head slightly, puzzled by his action.

He seems different, in a way that I can’t seem to comprehend. His conversation and wording is so odd, his gestures seem so carefree, and there’s a look in his eyes that gives off a sense of determination that is different from the other soldiers. He’s also smiling, an action that I can’t even recall seeing before. Why is he smiling? Why do people smile?

– Mel Snyder, Zepharius Vol. 1

Blurb: The planet Gisaawek is hiding in a lie, its citizens corrupted by a force unleashed years ago known as the “Repression”. The planet’s drive for power and war is increasing on an unrelenting level. Planets that were once allies have turned against them.

Zepharius, now a former soldier of Gisaawek lives as an outsider in her own world.

She is one of the dïfakàténs, people whose existence is forbidden by the government. They refer to themselves as “Restored”; people who have overcome the Repression and are seeking to restore Gisaawek. Zepharius sets out to join their movement, tasked with the prospect of leadership and providing aid to a counterattack.

With chaos enveloping the planet and the loss of their leader putting them at high alert, the Restored are wary of anyone who enters their domain. Zepharius seems trustworthy, but holds information that could destroy her potential for joining them, being the last person to see their beloved leader alive.

With trust becoming the dividing line between life and death, Zepharius struggles to adapt to the new community around her. When an unexpected infiltration puts them on unknown grounds, will she be able to gain their trust and help her people survive?

Zepharius Vol. 2 picks up right where volume 1 left off, and if you don’t read volume 1 first then very little will make any sense!

This instalment has a much faster pace than the first, and less worldbuilding. Zepharius, the main character, has fallen in with the rebels’ underground faction, and immediately fallen into danger with them as they are swept up for imprisonment in a mining facility on another planet… to be worked to death.

The majority of the action is less focused on the bigger plot of the budding interplanetary wars and is more personal, following Zepharius and her companions as they attempt to escape from their underground prison in order to resume their rebellion.

I really enjoyed the mix of secondary characters in this volume, and that there was more of a group feel to the action, rather than Zepharius continually going solo – it brought more breadth of experience to events to have more than just the competent soldier perspective, and added an undercurrent of mistrust, as it seemed clear that there was a traitor somewhere in the ranks, but not clear who it might be.

The running themes in this series are of power and dominance vs. both individual and community freedoms and I am intrigued to see where the author takes this and how the story arc is eventually resolved. This volume, as with the previous, ends on a cliffhanger in order to lead the reader straight into volume 3 and I am keeping an eye out for its release so that I can find out whether Zepharius manages to expose the usurpers and restore peace – I’ll keep you posted!

“I’ll give you a few weeks to try to fix that enslaved mentality of yours, but if you don’t show any signs of change…”

They step closer to me and glare threateningly into my eyes. I feel my hearts shaking and my fingers go cold.

“I will kill you myself,” they threaten me, “to spare you from ending up left for dead elsewhere.”

My entire body grows cold now. I had gotten accustomed to Lïtsubavïr’s empty threats, but this feels completely different.

Trakyuuserrïa was right. The aura of the community around me and the correlation between the dïfakàténs here have given me a false reassurance. They all get along and have peace because they are already established here in the underground.

They all belong here.

I don’t.

– Mel Snyder, Zepharius Vol. 2

Find more from Mel Snyder on the following links: website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Zepharius Vol. 1 and Zepharius Vol. 2 are both available on Amazon right now.


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