Solaris. Feb. 2024. 400p. ISBN 9781786189387. $26.99. SF
DEBUT In Mooring’s debut novel, blind initiate Korinna risks being “recycled” if she can’t prove her worth to the Red Priestesses and the Empire. In clear callbacks to well-loved classic science fiction, galactic politics and religious interstellar navigational skills take center stage alongside powerful religious prophesies. Much like life on the Navitas, important plot points and worldbuilding alternate between frequent repetition and required leaps of faith. Pacing and plot prove to be more important than character development, though love and trauma are Korinna’s compass through the schemes of the galaxy’s most powerful women. The entire novel is coated with an aesthetic of pain, as blood and injury empower Red Priestess magic. This can lead to a few gruesome scenes, but alongside morally gray characters, this places the novel firmly with the current trend for blockbusters with a shadowy vibe. Despite the cruelness of her galaxy, Mooring takes special care with inclusivity. Blindness is not a barrier, and racism and homophobia don’t seem to exist in the diverse society.
VERDICT Recommended for lovers of goth-tinged speculative fiction like Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.
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