Book Review: Founder’s Mercy by Owen Lach

Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Publishing Info: 2022 by Jetspace Studio
Pages: 393

Publisher’s Summary:
Some secrets are worth dying for.
Teenage best friends Adan Testa and Bo Shen have a plan. They’ll pull of an unlikely heist to earn their way over the wall, escaping Bolvar before serving their mandatory five years in the Bolvar Union Defense Force. But Adan has a secret talent that no one has seen in the five centuries since the First Explorers colonized Neska. And when the Union discovers Adan’s gift, they’ll do anything they can to learn his secret even if it kills him.

My thanks for this review go to Owen Lach, Jetspace Studio and NetGalley, for providing me with the pre-release e-book version of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Please support authors and publishers by purchasing Founder’s Mercy upon its release on the 22nd of March 2022.

Founder’s Mercy Book Cover (Owen Lach, Jetspace Studio, 2022)

One of the strongest elements in this book is the world building of Neska and the Bolvar Union. In particular, I appreciate the inclusion of short logs from the First Explorers who colonized the planet of Neska five centuries prior. These separate the present day chapters and act as a secondary narrative of sorts, with the readers seeing exactly how the Neskan settlements regressed from having advanced technology to a primitive environment where loyalty to the Union is placed above all else, even one’s own hopes and happiness. The dystopian elements of this book are done to great effect, with the Union a truly sinister presence that seems to have eyes all through society – readers will share the paranoia of the protagonists in a world where anyone can turn on them for greater favour with the Union. The high quality of world building also presents great opportunities for future developments to be explored within settlements and groups on Neska, including the Bolvar Union Defense Force, the insurgent Motari and the distant city of Port Abarra. With this being Book One of the Neskan Chronicles, I look forward to seeing how Lach can build on his terrific world building in the sequels.

In the midst of the darkness and dystopia, Lach has created a world that is also idealistic for many people who have been isolated for their natural differences. The majority of the surviving First Explorers and their settled descendants are not White, but this is only mentioned in passing when characters come across an individual with a paler complexion to any they have seen before. Secondly, the characters also provide their pronouns when introducing themselves in a way that suggests this practice has been normalized. Finally, it is also refreshing to see a gay man as a main character in a book that never uses his homosexuality to define the character’s personality or drive the narrative forward. As a reader of many YA science-fiction and fantasy books, it is apparent that the relationships the character has, whether platonic or romantic, have been given the same importance as if the character was straight. This Neskan society has moved past the ailments that continue to plague today’s world, including racism, homophobia and transphobia. As said above, it is refreshing that the author has normalized these practices in his world, which in itself makes a point on how natural it would be for everyone in today’s society to respect differences in genders, sexualities and skin colours.

This book enters a crowded market of Young Adult fiction with aspects of science-fiction and dystopia. It is therefore near impossible for a book in this genre to be 100% different from anything that is already in the market. In spite of this, the book stands out for being extremely accessible to readers, owing to its relatively short chapters and pacing that allows the near 400 page length to fly by. There are peaks and troughs with the narrative, but at no time does it feel like the pacing suffers. The sections of text dedicated to conversations between characters works as, like with the world building of settings and the Neskan society, the way Lach has written the characters allows for all, even the minor ones who may appear in one or two scenes, to feel like they have more than a single facet to them. Regarding the central core group, which include the primary protagonists and allies, the majority are written to be extremely likeable, and with all, including those who may not have had much development in this first book, there is a great deal of potential and development to them that can easily be explored in sequels. This book raises many questions on the heritage, backgrounds and histories of several characters, as well as the how the society the First Explorers founded regressed to the Union. By not answering the majority of the questions in the opening book, Lach has ensured that readers will want to continue with the Neskan Chronicles to discover these answers.

The first book in the Neskan Chronicles series is a success, owing to a great use of world building to create a history and society that allows for many questions to be raised in this opening novel. The central core of characters are also written to have multiple facets to them, whilst providing opportunities for development in the sequels. It was also refreshing to read a book that features characters who are not White or straight but never uses these features as a way to drive forward the plot, or be their only defining feature. In short, this is a very promising first book of the series, and I look forward to reading future books from this author.

Star Rating: 4/5

Thank you for taking the time to read my review of Founder’s Mercy by Owen Lach. The Kindle Edition will be available to download from Amazon on the 22nd of March 2022 – the link to pre-order this book from Amazon UK has been included below.

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