Katya’s World by Jonathan L. Howard
Genre: Science-fiction, Young-Adult
Series: Russalka Chronicles #1
Published: November 6th 2012 by Strange Chemistry
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.
Katya’s World is a novel unlike most I’ve read recently. I’ve been agonising over this review for a while in how to phrase the experience of reading. This novel isn’t perfect, but I don’t think anything truly can be; it’s an ideal that doesn’t exist, but it’s a brilliant concept! It blends the young-adult genre and the technicality of science-fiction into something that’s enjoyable, understanding and engaging.
Russalka. A world inhabited by descendants from Earth who are Russian. Sounds simple enough, until you add into the fact they are no outer space, long estranged from Earth and their original culture and all they hold is the name. Howard creates an entirely new race of people, with a different system and a very different form of survival. Submarines are not our common commute method, but Russalka is basically water with different communities built on these platforms. The world building is pretty fabulous and all this background built around it really impressed me. Howard really makes his writing an craft rather than an art.
“The first act of the thousands selected was to name their new home. They looked to folklore and chose the name Russalka, after a race of mermaids, beautiful and mysterious. If they had looked deeper into the myth, they might have changed their minds – a Russalka was a predator that would use her charms to draw men to the water, where they would be drowned and fed upon.”
Our main character is Katya Kuriakova who certainly has her share of turmoil. Katya to us seems rather young and this makes her all the more astounding as a main character. She’s forced to grow up quickly and she shows all the intelligence and maturity she shows reflects the harsh, gritty reality of Russalka. If you’re looking for a tale of flowers and happiness, don’t expect to find it here because whilst Katya’s World isn’t without hope, it’s not one for the fainthearted. I liked Katya as a character and I thought she was intuitive and caring, however my one criticism of the novel would be that we didn’t get to know her. The novel is seen through her eyes in first person, and I think Howard kind of forgot to tell us about her. What she looks like and her personality. It unveils rather slowly and not entirely by the end, so I’d just like to know a little more about her as a person that seeing the world through her eyes because when she talked about herself I really visualised her in my head.
“Her damned nose. She was just going to end up looking sweet and, in all likelihood, adorable. It always happened. She could drown a hospital and they’d still let her off for being in possession of a button-nose.”
Then there is Kane. I’ll not tell you a lot about this guy because there is so much to learn about him and be unveiled as you go along and he’s pretty mysterious. I wouldn’t want to ruin that for you, but he’s a very rugged, surprising character that has a lot of depth and a lot of skeletons in cupboards. He really didn’t turn out to be who I thought he’d be and I really appreciated that fact that he was different. I’ve been tired of the mundane male characters that have to sweep the heroine of their feet. He wasn’t dashing or noble and don’t expect to be finding romance in Katya’s World because this does not focus in the novel. It’s a tale about friendship bonds, mysteries, betrayals and loyalty that allow it to bumble along and blossom.
“Kane raised his hands. “Sorry. She’s armed and a bit nervous. I should shut up.”
Ultimately, something that sold Katya’s World to me from the beginning was the fact that it was so unique and engaging. I didn’t expect what happened in Katya’s World at all. It was entirely unpredictable and all the more fabulous because of it. I felt that at every turn a new twist was being thrown in and we were exploding both literally and figuratively in a whole new direction. It was most impressive.
Then we add in the plethora of secondary characters from Uncle Lukyan, The Chertovka and all the Feds, martials, pirates really round the novel off. This is where Howard flourished with his characterisation, and I felt if this depth had been added to Katya this novel might have just gone above and beyond.
Katya’s World might lack romance, but that should never go against the novel because at the moment it really isn’t needed. At all. The novel has so much to offer on a plot basis that doesn’t need a romance to fill its pages and detract from the story which makes it truly refreshing and engaging. I urge each and everyone of you to go out and get yourself a copy of this novel because hoping on the Russalka Chronicles train that is set to be a trilogy I’m sure is not going to disappoint you.
Look out for my interview with the author Jonathan L. Howard where I tackle romance, science-fiction and the YA genre and the all important what does he have in store for us next?
Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for providing me with a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.
* Quotes are taken from and uncorrected proof copy and may change in the final draft.