The distant and unloved colony world of Russalka has no land, only the raging sea. No clear skies, only the endless storm clouds. Beneath the waves, the people live in pressurised environments and take what they need from the boundless ocean. It is a hard life, but it is theirs and they fought a war against Earth to protect it. But wars leave wounds that never quite heal, and secrets that never quite lie silent.
Katya Kuriakova doesn’t care much about ancient history like that, though. She is making her first submarine voyage as crew; the first nice, simple journey of what she expects to be a nice, simple career.
There is nothing nice and simple about the deep black waters of Russalka, however; soon she will encounter pirates and war criminals, see death and tragedy at first hand, and realise that her world’s future lies on the narrowest of knife edges. For in the crushing depths lies a sleeping monster, an abomination of unknown origin, and when it wakes, it will seek out and kill every single person on the planet.
Ah, this one. I heard so many good things from reader friends I trust, but GoodReads reviews scared me a little. We start off learning the history of Russalka, how it was colonized and the wars that followed. Katya is nearly sixteen, living in a world ruled by martial law, when she is granted an apprenticeship on her uncle’s ship as a navigator. Things go horribly wrong, however, and that’s when the real story begins. The first quarter gets pretty technical about submarines and how they work, which was interesting, if a little confounding. Kane is very intriguing, and I really wanted to know more about the war with the Terrans. We get more information in bits and pieces throughout the book, and really, Kane was probably my favorite character next to Tasya, a war criminal. I don’t know if my brain is twisted, but these people are supposed to be the villains in the story. Shows how well Howard writes to make them so sympathetic. I also liked the world: a sea-based world with just a smattering of land and sea mountains.
However, I didn’t much like Katya. You know my biases about male authors writing women and girls, though I don’t know that this was the problem this time. Katya was just irrational for the first half of the book, or maybe I just liked Kane too much to see her try and torture him. That Katya realizes she is being irrational made no difference to me. When we finally find out what the Leviathan is, the things she said to Kane made me put the book down. Maybe my bleeding liberal heart is too soft. In fact, by the halfway mark, I pretty much hated Katya. How many times was she going to get angry about something she didn’t understand only to be schooled and made to feel stupid later? It’s like she never learned that maybe she didn’t know everything. Despite hating the FMA, she was still a government shill, believing everything they said to the detriment of everyone around her. I delivered many incensed diatribes to my boyfriend about this (he read the book too and liked it more than I did). And, honestly, I’m used to disliking protags in YA, just not ones who could kill people with their temper and stupidity.
I was ready to flounce at the 2/3 mark and toss my Kindle against the wall, but I was assured Kayta is prevented from doing the stupidest thing she has ever thought of, and that’s saying something, because I can think of no less than six times when she does something dumb. Katya has no characterization beyond being sanctimonious and stupid. This is a problem with all hard sci-fi in my opinion: it tends to be plot-driven, and the characters suffer. And that’s fine if that’s your thing (it’s my boyfriend’s thing, for sure), but I wanted her to be more fleshed out. The submarine terms become tiresome after awhile too. I didn’t much care about how the ships worked or what depths they were at or how Katya navigated. I wanted to know about the Leviathan, about the war, about Kane’s family and his relationship with Tasya. So, this one just did not work for me.
I hate to give such a negative review for anything; three paragraphs on what I didn’t like isn’t fun for me to write, but my problems with the book seem to be somewhat universal, at least on GoodReads. I will tell you what I did like: no romance. Zero. Katya is in no way attracted to anyone, and just thank you for that, Howard. And that’s about all I can say about that.