Book Review: Jaran by Kate Elliott (4 stars)
Jaran by Kate Elliott
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Open Road
Re-Published: July 30th, 2013 (Originally published in 2002)
The first book of Kate Elliott’s epic Novels of the Jaran, set in an alien-controlled galaxy where a young woman seeks to find her own life and love, but is tied to her brother’s revolutionary fate
In the future, Earth is just one of the planets ruled by the vast Chapalii empire. The volatility of these alien overlords is something with which Tess Soerensen is all too familiar. Her brother, Charles, rebelled against them at one time and was rewarded by being elevated into their interstellar system—yet there is reason to believe they murdered his and Tess’s parents.
Struggling to find her place in the world and still mending a broken heart, Tess sneaks aboard a shuttle bound for Rhui, one of her brother’s planets. On the ground, she joins up with the native jaran people, becoming immersed in their nomadic society and customs while also attempting to get to the bottom of a smuggling scheme she encountered on her journey there. As she grows ever closer to the charismatic jaran ruler, Ilya—who is inflamed by an urgent mission of his own—Tess must choose between her feelings for him and her loyalty to her brother.
Jaran is the first volume of the Novels of the Jaran, which continues with An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, and The Law of Becoming.
JARAN brings into existence a planet as real as our own. The culture on Rhui is unlike any I have ever known and it’s dizzying to imagine how much work it must have taken to create a culture so vastly different from our own yet so fleshed out and alive.
Even the minor characters have developed personalities and backstories, which I suppose might be why this book is so long. Still, I never felt like any scene dragged or that any of the descriptions or character interactions were overly explained. It truly felt like I was transported into this alien planet and learned the culture organically, like Tess.
It’s refreshing that Tess maintains a brotherly connection to Yuri throughout the novel and they never cross into a romantic relationship. Even though Tess is ‘adopted’ into Yuri’s family, the bond and playful banter between them feels like they’re actual sister and brother. Tess’s relationship with Ilya is a firecracker one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one develop so slowly, yet so compellingly.
A couple complaints: In the first couple chapters, Tess leaves her husband and travels to Rhui without her brother’s knowledge. Tess’s motivations for arriving on the planet don’t ever seem to be made clear. Also, I don’t think that the situation with her husband (ex?) is ever elaborated on. He seems to be there for setting up Tess’s background and not much else. Perhaps future books in the series will clear this up. Although the book is nearly 500 pages, I felt like the scenes from Charles and Marcus’s POV are rushed. I wish that there was more of a background set up for both of those characters as well as given some clarity as to what being the Duke entailed.
JURAN is a fantastic blend of epic fantasy and science fiction adventure.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)