I am thrilled to discover a great, new (to me) science fiction author and very much enjoyed reading both these books. In fact, for the first time since I have begun reading deliberately to broaden my reading horizons, I find a writer who pulls me into her stories, so that I found it hard to put the books down and even harder not to think about the books when not reading them.
But if you are thinking of reading these books, do start with Darkland first. I think it would be very difficult to understand Bloodmind without beginning at the beginning. In fact, I really think these two books need to be published in one volume. Neither is a story complete in itself.
What I liked about the books:
Liz Williams has skillfully invented whole new worlds, complete with landscapes, climates, flora and fauna. I like the flawed – and scarred – main female protagonist. I like the depiction of a number of almost-familiar near-human species, but with distinctly different, non-human instincts, senses and powers. I particularly like the fact that this is proper ‘science’ fiction and does not resort to witchcraft or magic to explain events (although, to be honest, the stories would equally work if told as magical fantasies too).
In Bloodmind, different female characters took it in turns to narrate the story, along with the main female character from Darkland. This was a very compelling device, sucking the reader into the different characters – their hopes, fears and dramas. The jumping about between characters and places could have been confusing, particularly as the story’s events take place across three different planets. But this was overcome by the pragmatic titles of the chapters – each chapter’s title simple states the name of the planet and narrator. A neat device and very useful.
What I didn’t like about the books:
The ending of Darkland was a cliffhanger and a clear hook to take the reader into Bloodmind. I would have preferred a more definitive ending to the first story. If I liked the book enough, I would read the sequel anyway.
The ending to Bloodmind was somehow dissatisfying. It felt foreshortened. I would have preferred more explanation and more exploration. And more resolution. Maybe it is intended to finish the story with a further book.
And now I am just nitpicking: Although the female narrators came from different backgrounds, had different experiences and expectations, there was a ‘sameness’ about their voices.