Review: Ascension


(A Tangled Axon novel)
By: Jacqueline Koyanagi
Genre: Space opera
First published in 2013

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spirit guide sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego… and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her.

Ascension is a debut science fiction adventure novel with some storytelling issues that are balanced by great characters and a sense of fun.

Alana Quick would love nothing more than to leave the dust of her planet behind and experience life in space, something she has been dreaming of since she was a kid. Her chance comes when the spaceship Tangled Axon lands on the yard of her workshop, looking for her spirit guide sister, and Alana decides to stow away. When the characters are forced to try to live together and get along, the result is both personality clashes and budding friendships.

I loved the main character. Alana is a sky surgeon (a spaceship mechanic) with an autoimmune disease which causes her chronic pain. Without medication, it would leave her incapable to do the job she loves, and would eventually kill her. Her disorder is never conveniently forgotten – it permeates the whole novel like it permeates Alana’s life – but the book is not about her disability. It’s just a constant presence.

The most interesting thing about Alana is her passion for spaceships. She really loves them, and has a sort of a sixth sense in being able to feel the ships and tell what is wrong with them. This skill might be part of the same ability that makes her sister a spirit guide, except her powers work with people, Alana’s with machines.

Alana’s relationship with her sister Nova was my favourite character relationship in the book. While Alana is in chronic pain and wants to live her life to the fullest with the body that she has, her healthy sister would love nothing more than leave her body behind and live as pure spirit. They struggle to understand each other, but they do love each other. There’s also a budding romance between Alana and the captain of the spaceship. I’m a reader who doesn’t really care for that much romance in my books, and there was a decent amount of it in this one, but it was not a deal breaker for me.

Ascension is a debut novel and felt a bit uneven at times, pacing and plot-wise. I liked the first half, getting to know the Tangled Axon’s crew, a lot more than the second half with the actual plot developments spiced with some philosophical musings. The first half managed to evoke that Firefly feel of different people learning to live together. The ending didn’t do much for me.

I wasn’t really swept away with the plot or any of the bigger reveals. I felt like they weren’t given enough emphasis, so they didn’t have an impact on me. Sometimes I was left wondering “So what does that mean?” The main character might muse on some relatively smaller aspects of her journey for much longer than she would dwell on the larger reveals.

I would recommend this book if you feel like reading a space adventure with a likeable main character and a focus on character relationships, if you don’t mind romance, a lot of inner monologues and some debut author unevenness. I will be checking out whatever Koyanagi writes next.

3 out of 5 stars


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