Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels' parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.
When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.
The first thing I want to say is that Snyder clearly did her research when it came to setting up a futuristic society. Not only does she bother to include time dilation in her interstellar travel — remarkable in and of itself since so many books take a lazy magically fast travel approach — but she also thought through the social ramifications of it. The story opens with Lyra, our protagonist, sad, angry and desperate over the fact that her parents will soon be moving to another planet for work. Since she is under 18 and has to come along, that means she will never see any of her current friends again. The way the research base kids deal with that situation struck me as very believable and it was an emotional scene to read.
The way they travel through space to distant planets is still a little bit magic, time dilation or not, but it was sufficiently well thought out that I didn’t find anything to complain about. Ditto the quantum computer that controls navigation and a host of other things. There was also a bit of maths-based problem solving that I found it quite plausible that Lyra would be capable of. In summary, this book gets my “physics done right” seal of approval. Oh, and there was also some realistic treatment of head wounds, which was refreshing to see.
Not ignoring the laws of physics wasn’t the only thing done right in this book. The story was engaging and I enjoyed Lyra’s voice and being in her head. The archaeological side of things, which Lyra was frequently involved with thanks to her parents, was also interesting and not overburdened by boring details. By the time the more mysterious elements of the plot came to the forefront, I was well and truly invested and couldn’t put the book down. (And now I am sleep-deprived.) the romance was probably the least interesting element of the plot, since Lyra’s love interest is literally the only other teenager insight, but he was a sufficiently interesting character that I didn’t get annoyed at him and actually worried for his safety (I may have forgotten that I was reading a Harlequin book at that point.)
I highly recommend this book to all fans of hard science fiction and/or YA. Snyder shows that lazy shortcuts to advance the plot (magic travel, ignoring concussions) aren’t necessary to make a story interesting and engaging. I was really pleased with the realism (yes, realism, even when strange inexplicable things were also happening) and the amount of research that clearly went into this book. I was trepidatious about how the ending would go and whether I would still want to read the sequel, but I am pleased to report that I am definitely interested in finding out what happens next (and that it didn't end on a horrible cliffhanger or anything like that). Bring on the sequel!
5 / 5 stars
First published: November 2018, Harlequin Australia
Series: Yes. Book 1 of a new series called Sentinels of the Galaxy
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley