I gathered A Beautiful Friendship and Firstborn together simply because they seem to be written for an early-teen audience, despite not really fitting their respective genres. The first was a book of the month for the Goodreads Space Opera Group. Firstborn I’ve had for years on my kindle, probably as a first-read and was much better than I expected from the cover.
A Beautiful Friendship (an Honorverse story)
by David Weber
Stephanie Harrington absolutely hates being confined inside her family’s compound on the pioneer planet of Sphinx, a frontier wilderness world populated by dangerous native animals that could easily tear a human to bits and pieces. Yet Stephanie is a young woman determined to make discoveries—and the biggest discovery of all awaits her: an intelligent alien species.
Treecats are creatures that resemble a cross between a bobcat and a lemur (but with six legs and much more deadly claws). Not only are they fully sentient, they are also telepathic, and able to bond with certain gifted humans such as the genetically-enhanced Stephanie. But Stephanie’s find, and her first-of-its-kind bond with a treecat, brings on a new torrent of danger. An assortment of highly placed enemies with galactic-sized wealth at stake is determined to make sure that the planet of Sphinx remains entirely in human hands—even if this means the extermination of another thinking species.[goodreads]
Treecats are great! It is always a pleasure to have really well done alien creatures getting their own POV across. The world-building and especially the forest building in this book is first class. The human characters are a mixture of land-grabbing human settlers, and scientists and environmentalists who really care about the world, which isn’t supposed to have any higher order creatures in it, but that’s what happens in space exploration – some things get missed. Especially when those creatures take pains to hide themselves.
There are two stories in this book, with a gap of some years between them. First Stephanie finds the treecats, and makes friends, through a very good and exciting accident. The second picks up later and starts info-dumping all over the place. The baddy is revealed, then reveals his entire history, and his purpose for being there. This is not foreshadowing, but it is preparing very young readers not to trust strangers. I thought it ruined a good premise.
Some readers will love the whole treecat experience enough to forgive this foray into dire plotting, but it doesn’t encourage me to read any more. I think my three stars is generous. I believe the earlier-written, later-set Honor Harrington series may be better (and designed for a general readership).
by Karen King
Firstborn is an exciting fantasy adventure about two children, Myden (a tough, ‘street-wise’ but loyal orphan boy) and Tsela (the cosseted but gutsy daughter of a Lord) from Cryenia. When a powerful enemy, the Isleck, kidnap the firstborn children of Cryenia, Myden and Tsela are amongst them. The Isleck are intent on stealing the special powers of the Cryenian Firstborn and using them to take over the world.
Myden and Tsela are rescued by the dragon, Bork, who tells them that the Golden Dragon is the only one who can defeat the Isleck so the two children join him on a dangerous quest to find this creature. They face many dangers together.
Then Myden is recaptured by the Isleck, leaving Tsela and Bork to complete the treacherous journey alone. Myden, meanwhile, is taken to Dajall where he has to try and outwit the Shalram, the Isleck’s evil leader.
Later,Tsela is recaptured too and the children find themselves immersed in a battle that threatens to destroy them and their world.
A gripping adventure story of just over 50,000 words for children over 9 years. [goodreads]
This is a very enjoyable book written with children in mind, but a cover which indicates a younger audience, to me at any rate. The premise, that the firstborn children are somehow special, sets up the protagonists nicely. Plenty of well thought-out adventures take them to different parts of the country, tackling each problem as it comes.
Firstborn is an excellent adventure with a villain who’ll remind you of several films and a cover that I’ve always thought of as mushrooms – but it’s a dragon! But it’s great for the age group, who usually don’t mind predictability. Lots of twists and great descriptions.