Sunshine Somerville has created a unique, vivid, and exciting post-apocalyptic world with her four-book Kota series. In celebration of the new release of her short story, The Woman of the Void, which traces the origins of the mother of the Kota warriors, here's my review for that story - released today (08/08/15) - followed by my review for book 1.
The Woman of the Void ★★★★★
This short story is an excellent way into the vast and terrifying post-apocalyptic world Somerville has created in her Kota series. Vedanleé finds herself the centre of a prophesy - mother of Kota Warriors - and so is wrenched away from her witch clan at the age of fifteen. This short is wonderfully-written, full of beautiful descriptions of Scandinavian and North American landscapes; while the protagonist herself is compelling and sympathetic as she embarks on a physical, spiritual, and emotional journey that will test who she is if she is ever to become the Woman of the Void. You'll feel safe in the author's capable hands to let yourself go along for the ride here, and, more importantly, to go on to discover the rich and detailed world of the four Kota novels.
The Kota: Book 1 ★★★★★
I'm always suspicious of books over the length of say, 400 pages, so when I picked up The Kota and saw it was not only close to 600 pages, but had the daunting subtitle 'Expanded Edition', I really did have to take a deep breath before reading. I needn't have worried. I can only give my respect to a writer who can hold my attention over so many pages, while at no point did I think, Oh, here's an 'expanded' bit.
Four young characters - Bullseye, Rave, Whitewolf, and Tigris - must come together to defeat a great evil dictator, who, 500 years in the future holds the Earth's population to ransom with the only known (temporary) cure for the DRK virus, which causes those infected to suffer horrendous zombie-like symptoms. One of the things I really liked was how the book was structured: the first half follows the four heroes as they come together, under the guidance of Trok, who wants to see the Kota prophecies fulfilled; while the second half is about the missions they undertake as the Kota Warriors. There's plenty of action, but, more important to me, plenty of introspection as the heroes try to work out who they are and what it means to fulfil a destiny that could potentially leave little space for choice. One of my favourite characters is Tigris, who is on a journey of her own. She is more vulnerable than the other three, which for me, makes her the most relatable character, all of whom, however, are distinct and compelling.
Not only are the characters believable and sympathetic, the whole world they find themselves in is incredibly well-thought out and always consistent, and quite honestly, it's scary to imagine the amount of work the author must have put into this. All the Sci-Fi elements, including the DRK virus, genetic mutations, the cool technology, the portals and different dimensions (which to me sounded like string theory), are all brilliantly done, and I liked that the warrior's special powers - cloaking and telepathy, to name a couple - all have a basis in empiricism - genetics - rather than magic, which to me gives it more power.
Perhaps the only criticism I had about the book were a few moments of long bits of uninterrupted dialogue that almost - almost! - seemed a bit exposition-ey, but honestly, despite mentioning it, these moments helped me orientate myself into the story and they were seamlessly woven into the scene.
The Kota: Book 1 is a magnificent blend of Sci-Fi, dystopia, paranormal, adventure, YA and many other genres (you'd think that would be a weakness, but no, it's yet another strength) that not only had an entire world that awed me, but was created by an author who clearly cares about the details of the story and the world she's created, and who constantly made me think to myself, 'You simply could not do this.'
Find out more about The Kota series and connect with Sunshine Somerville at sunshinesomerville.com