Thursday, October 10, 2019

D.B. Reynolds - Shifter Planet

Specialist Amanda Sumner is one of the first to make contact on the Earth-like planet Harp and discovers she's the only Earthling who can hear the trees sing in the strange forest. Determined to remain and learn more of the planet’s secrets, Amanda sets out to become part of the elite Guild there...
But there is a secret involving some Guild members–one that could get her killed.
Shifter Rhodry de Mendoza wants the Earthlings off his planet before they destroy it—even if that means denying what he feels for the fierce and lovely Amanda. The pair is thrown together in what becomes a fight for their lives. And they might just lose everything–including each other–in their battle for the right to live in peace.

Comment: This book was published in 2015 and I got it months after but only decided to read it. Apparently, I picked a good moment because I just saw there's a second book going to be published soon and I liked this one enough to want to read a follow-up installment.

In this sci-fi story it's the year 4668 and there is, of course, inter-planetary travel and the universe has become somewhat closer. 
The protagonist Amanda Sumner was born in a space ship, she's never been to Earth but her favorite activity is to explore the planets she visits with her ship/crew. Amanda is a specialist and a huge part of her work is related to the planets' characteristics which means the day they stumble on Harp, a planet very similar to Earth, she is beyond curious to go out. In fact, she is even personally surprised with what she finds for she is the only one who can actually listen to the trees.
Welcoming the group and agreeing on some studies and exchanges are the Harp representatives, descendants from a old colony of humans. Amanda decides to stay in the planet for a while, hoping to learn more about it but she also feels her determination and abilities are put into question when she is denied entrance to a Guild in the planet, whose members can travel at will through the huge forests she feels to compelled by.
One of the members who seems to always be in her way is Rhodry de Mendoza and she does think him attractive but after making certain she can indeed try to be part of the Guild, there are still many secrets on the planet some people don't want her finding...

When this author's books got to be more known and people started to read her vampire novels, I too tried one, since I liked PNR a lot a decade ago and for a few years I devoured the genre. To be honest, the book I've read didn't convince me, nor did another one from a different series I also read. This means I was not very eager going into this one but I do try to get books out of the pile..
Anyway, this turned out to be a good surprise and probably the fact I prefer shifter PNR to vampires nowadays did have an impact on my appreciation.

I would say this story is a lot more focused on the adventure part of the plot rather than simple world building or romance developments.
The Harp planet is seductive, has secrets but interesting elements that make it seem alike Earth and that simplifies the images one needs to have an idea of what it looked like. I must say the add of details about the planet felt effortless and fluid.
The descriptions give a good enough idea of what things are supposed to look like but at the same time there are still several things alluded to which I felt were just a bit out of reach (for instance, the constant comments on Rhody's life in the mountains area which we never got to have as part of the actual story).

The planet is intriguing and I liked what the author, in general, made out if.The society rules seem easy enough to understand and most of the plot is focused on Amanda's attempts to be part of the Guild and not much interaction between her and the other members of the ship who remained. Part of this was done to suit her independent personality and now the second book will come out, I assume for plot reasons for it seems certain details are going to be exploited then.
As for Amanda's adventures, they obviously offered a huge clue on how resilient and adaptable she is and in tune with the planet she was too (like her way to understand the trees proved). There are many details of her adventures to create a good image of what it could have been like for her to go through such extenuating trials while using her intelligence and abilities.

Then, the romance. It becomes clear from the start Amanda and Rhodry feel attracted to one another and during the time it takes them to solve their situation in the wilderness, something that occupies a large part of the plot, they become closer until they just agree on being together. I think they make a good couple and as often happens, their personalities complement each other and I could envision their HEA.
I just think that Amanda was too confident on their sexual relationship since it was the first time she was in a new planet I sort of would have preferred her to be more cautious or not as free with her intimacy expectations. When things are finally solved, they admit their feelings at the end of the book but it was so rushed! I wanted an epilogue to show how they could build a life together.

I think this was a story that touched many good points, the interesting and developed at the right moments characters, the setting is refreshing, the shifter element was also fascinating, the descriptions and some situations too. The romance and some world building felt too precise, too easy to fit an established idea the author might have had and I missed a bit more spontaneity, emotion and feelings behind some action scenes.
I hope the next book can add a bit more information not available in this one regarding some things in Harp.
Grade: 8/10

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