“Katya’s World” by Jonathan L. Howard

Book Reviews 20 Comments 7th January, 2013

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Katya’s World” by Jonathan L. HowardKatya's World by Jonathan L. Howard
Series: Russalka Chronicles #1
Published by Strange Chemistry in 2012
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 339
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Buy the BookGoodreads

 

Jonathan Howard’s novel “Katya’s World” is one of the first books books released through Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s new YA imprint.  Based on this book, I can’t wait to see more!

“Katya’s World” is science fiction set on the planet Russalka, a colony world founded by Russian immigrants from Earth.  Russalka is an aquatic world with abundant natural resources, which made colonization a viable economic decision at the time.  However, political problems on Earth meant that the colony was ignored and left to fend for itself.  The harsh climate and lack of any actual land surface created a resilient and independent people.

Katya is on her first voyage as a submarine navigator with her uncle Lyukan when the military asks her to assist in a prisoner transport.  This isn’t normal, and both Lyukan and Katya resent the interruption of their command.  However, when the ship is attacked by a sea monster dubbed the Leviathan, Katya, Lyukan, and their mysterious prisoner find themselves caught up in a struggle that could threaten their entire world.

Over the past few months, I’ve been attempting to find YA novels that aren’t the same old tired story of love triangles and teenage novels.  This one is a winner.  Not only does it lack love triangles, but it doesn’t have a love story at all.  Quite frankly, it doesn’t need one.  Katya is a young woman making the first steps in her career, and is going through the phase where people who would normally be authority figures are now becoming colleagues and asking her to help make decisions.  She’s young, spunky, and confident, and her problems revolve around carrying her passengers to safety and fighting sea monsters.

I was also impressed by the world building, because the entire idea of living on a planet without a land surface is something that I haven’t read about before.  Howard explores themes like ethnic identity as he creates a people with Russian ancestry but who have lived on Russalka for so long that they no longer identify themselves with the people of Earth.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this one.  While I read it a couple months ago, I’m including it in The 2013 Science Fiction Experience, as I’m only getting as far as reviewing it now.

20 Responses to ““Katya’s World” by Jonathan L. Howard”

  1. Carl V.

    That does sound good and I’m excited that it was since you took it as a review copy. I’m always worried that is going to result in something I don’t like and then I have the agony of saying so in a review, lol! Apollo’s Outcasts by Allen Steele is one I read and reviewed recently that was a similar experience. I got it for a review copy and it blew me away. Such a great YA/Teen novel. I think you would enjoy it. It has a bit of a love triangle in that two guys like the same girl but it is not a real huge part of the story in my mind and certainly doesn’t delve deeply into melodrama with it. I think it does a really nice job of not being a typical teen novel while at the same time presenting teenagers in an authentic way.

    Hmmm…I wonder what it would be like living on a planet with no land masses. I love water and being on or near water, but that would be rough I think, especially if you left Earth to go there. It would be quite the adjustment.

    • Grace

      I always worry about that too, but mostly I’ve had good luck with review copies. Then again, I tend to be pretty picky when I accept them, especially lately since I’ve had less time for reading.

      The idea of a world of submarines was intriguing. It gives the whole book a space opera feel, even though the whole story takes place on the same same planet.

    • Grace

      I love the idea of YA novels, but most of the time I’m disappointed. I’ve found a few good ones lately though, so I’ll have to get to writing those reviews!

  2. CaroG

    That book seems very interesting! I love the name of the colony (I loved the opera with the same name) and I think that is amazing to have a YA that is based on the character alone and not on a love triangle. So refreshing!
    I’m glad you are back, I really like your reviews :)

    • Grace

      Thank you! I’ve missed blogging. :)

      I haven’t seen any opera yet, although I’ve wanted to. I thought it was neat that Rusalka means “Mermaid” in Russian… it was a great name for an aquatic world.

  3. L

    you had me at “Not only does it lack love triangles, but it doesn’t have a love story at all.” :). I welcome an atypical teen/ya read to throw into the mix on mine and the daughter’s shelf.

    • Grace

      I kept waiting for a love story to begin, and one never did. I was so glad! It’s nice to see authors do something different every now and again… :)

  4. Heidi

    Oooh, I LOVE when YA doesn’t have a romance. I love a good romance, but quite frankly it’s a breath of fresh air when there isn’t one and a female lead can be a strong female lead without a love interest involved. I’m so glad to see your review of this one, I’ve been pretty hit and miss with Strange Chemistry titles thus far, so I’ve been careful about selecting them as of late. This one sounds worth checking out!

    • Grace

      Agreed. I don’t mind romance in a book, but it was refreshing to see a YA novel without one. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t at all interested in romance, so a book where the submarines and sea monsters took priority over cute boys would have been quite welcome. This is the only Strange Chemistry title I’ve read. I’m hoping they’ll focus more on sci-fi/fantasy stories that just happen to be for teenagers rather releasing more typical YA fare with love triangles and drama.

  5. cherylmahoney

    Hmm…I always love a story with a strong woman at its center! This sounds like an intriguing premise, particularly the world. The Russian heritage in a sci fi context sounds very interesting. I don’t think I’ve seen that much–other than Chekov, of course!

    • Grace

      The Russian influence is what made me pick it up in the first place. The book made a subtle statement about immigration and identity and the way that people don’t completely forget their roots, even if they’ve assimilated into a new culture or evolved into something entirely different.

    • Grace

      You’re welcome! It struck me as being so different from what would normally expect from YA, and as an adventure story it was great fun. :)

  6. contramann

    Haha, Spunky is a word I see often used anymore, Yeah you really found a winner here as an example of a good YA novel. In fact reading your review I didn’t even notice it was a YA novel until you said. Really surprised me.

    • Grace

      That’s how I think YA novels should be. You shouldn’t even realize that it’s young adult because the story is so good.

  7. Ryan

    You touched on my biggest problem with YA fiction: the lack of imaginative narratives. Always with the love triangles and such. This one sounds out of the ordinary. Always good, even when it fails… at least it tried.

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