Review: Abendau's Heir by Jo Zebedee

Brian G Turner

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Picking up a book by an independent publisher, I have to admit my expectations were not high. Surely such a book wouldn't be able to compete with commercial standard fiction I normally read from major publishers?

How very wrong I was.

The story opens well, and the stakes are quickly made apparent - Kare has been engineered to become the heir to the Empress of a vast space empire. However, his father flees with him to seek sanctuary with a rebel movement, and Kare grows up determined that he will make his own fate.

One way or another, events are not going to go to plan for anyone...

This is a book full of strong writing and characters, with vivid scenes and settings. The plot is truly engaging - where I might expect highs and lows, twists and turns, Abendau's Heir follows mountains and canyons, and has bone-cracking changes.

This is very much a character-driven story, with the caveat that it is more emotionally intense than I can recall from anything else I've read recently. Empaths are a major feature of this work, and that subject was handled very well.

The one weakness, because of this, is probably the world building - don't expect pages and pages of explanations of planetary ecosystems, how fighters work, or similar technical padding - this is all about the characters.

In terms of how it relates to other space operas, I kept seeing cues from 'Dune' and the original 'Star Wars' in here - little things that perhaps I imagined, but speaks for the strength of the storytelling. There's also a sense of this being perceived through a YA lens early on, but the tone of the book soon changes.

Abendau's Heir is a challenging read in parts, though - there are very dark elements to the story, not least a torture scene. While there was little detail, and more emphasis on the psychology of it - actually, quite brilliantly done - it still made for uncomfortable reading, and means that this story is not going to be for everyone - especially if you just want to read about space heroes getting an easy ride.

There were a couple of minor niggles - there are a couple of scenes at the end that I might have preferred to have seen kept the sequel, and I did notice a lot of semi-colons. Hardly big criticisms, though.

Overall, this is a compelling and engaging story, and a very satisfying read, so long as you don't mind your emotions being directly challenged. Definitely an author to keep an eye out for.
 

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