The blurb for StrikeStone, Stella Atrium’s Book 3 of the Dolvia saga reads:
Brianna Miller returns to the savannah on Dolvia after a 12 year absence. Along the way, she collects a clutch of young trainees who will manage wormhole commerce after their initiation with the tribeswomen. When she disembarks, Brianna discovers the tribes are binding together as they resist the oppressive rule of Rabbenu Ely. Except the women who are the best teachers for her clutch embrace death-by-fire in the public square to call attention to the struggle for home rule.
If you read this blog regularly, you’ll not be surprised I was attracted to it – in fact I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway (I think), only the second time that has happened.
It’s a dangerous game, starting a saga in the middle. I confess I thought it was a trilogy – but there’s more to come, as I found when I got to the end. In a backwards sort of review I’ll ask the normal question: will I read more? and the answer is “yes”. So why only four stars instead of my usual five for something that hooks me? Let’s get this review thing going properly.
StrikeStone opens with us following Brianna Miller, a feisty, nay, a high-placed, well-connected and assertive leader amongst her race. The trouble is, she left her planet and consorted with those darned earthlings on the other side of the wormhole. There is a company, Somule Gems, and a Consortium, which is run by a future Chinese civilisation that encompasses most races on our world. Brianna is highly placed in the company. They import and trade gems and other mineral wealth. Everyone is after something called silicide, and there is considerable interest in mining it on Dolvia, Brianna’s homeworld.
To say this is a complex world is an understatement. It is a magnificent piece of worldbuilding by Ms Atrium; Dolvia is reminiscent of Dune, but given I read Dune in the early 70s when it first came out, got bored by Dune Messiah, and never subscribed to the hype about it, don’t let my comparison put you off. Dolvia grabs you by the hippocampus and keeps pulling you back to the story. There is description beyond detailed, yet it flows and wraps itself around you. Where some might say “cut!” it’s been left lovingly in place to bring you scents, sounds and suspicions beyond the physical. Just who is Kat, the holy woman? After all, lots of people can’t even see her. Why can Kelly see Rufus’s aura? And why can’t I read the lines on the first page offering the new reader a lifeline to people and terms that are carefully listed at the back? There are animals that are telepathic, and possible psychic, there are women who are prescient, and men who are warriors dressed in loincloths. Oops, sorry, nothing untoward there – it’s just suitable garb for running around in a desert – or at least the savannah where most of our action on Dolvia is set.
There is also time spent in dubious houses of entertainment on Earth, the collection of recruits to Somule Gems and their escort through the wormhole by Brianna, and some time on spacestations, freighters and a modernistic world called Westend. Move from highly automated spaceships to tribal Dolvia in the turn of a page. You see why I listed it on my ‘epic’ shelf on Goodreads.
I confess I didn’t always know what the heck was going on. I was a little thrown by the change of narrator in three parts of the book. There is a lot of inter-tribal manoeuvring (ending in bloodshed), anti-company (or was it Consortium) political shenanigans, and then there are army people, journalists and others who get involved in the mix. Myths and legends, high finance and capitalist negotiations – try to keep up!
It’s magnificent, engrossing, but it doesn’t finish with this book. There is more to come. It’s a phase in the development of the Dolvia saga. Maybe I should have started with Book 1.