Asrian Skies by Anne Wheeler [Book Review]
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Asrian Skies is an awesome novel, reading a lot like Elizabeth Bear and Ann Leckie. There’s action, politics, tension, space opera and a very personal story of a young woman trying to work out what she wants and how to deal with the responsibility thrust upon her. The book is really well written, and the characters multi-dimensional, especially the antagonist where we can see the underlying humanity that his inhumane interrogation somehow works around.
Asrian Skies is set in a universe where humans inhabit multiple star systems and have faster than light travel available. The main character, Avery Rendon, is training to become a fighter pilot with the Commonwealth armed forces. The Commonwealth is a loose confederation of systems that each have their own way of doing things. Avery is the younger daughter of the brother of the King of Asria, her home planet.
The book starts with her training coming to a premature end because her uncle has abdicated. The Senate on Asria want her back home because her older brother is missing. Avery wrestles with her lack of control over her life. She feels she’s a virtual prisoner and unable to pursue her desires. This is just a taster for what comes next, and remains a theme through the book. Another theme is her relationship with her lover, an on/off one that she feels is being controlled by others.
Invasion & Occupation
Asria is invaded by the Haederans, a human empire that the Commonwealth was formed to resist. The attack comes without warning, and Asria is brutally overwhelmed. Avery retreats to the shelters, and ends up a prisoner of the Haedarans. There’s an occupation, which reminded me very much of the way that the nazis occupied Europe. The Haedarans are human, and the key antagonist, a policeman sent to guard Avery, shares her faith. He comes across as a reasonable man, one that you could empathise with. However this is the banality of evil, and his true colours are shown later in the story.
Although space opera, there’s a strong affinity with a lot of the WW2 stories I read of personal courage and resistance. Avery leads a double life trying to set an example for her people, and live up to what she sees as her duty as a leader. She suffers for this, and to help free her people. She also works out how to defeat the Haedarans and does her best to get this message out to her allies in the Commonwealth.
Overall this is a fantastic book that you ought to read. It’s got a lot in it, and I dearly hope that there are sequels.