3 out of 4 stars
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The mission codename is The Painted Symbol, and Zara Hanson is specifically hand-picked for this top-secret operation. A new-being possessing exceptional abilities teams-up with her. The adventure takes them to different places, galaxies, and dimensions. They encounter unusual creatures, some benevolent, while others are not. Zara learns new abilities and gains knowledge about the universe. The journey leads to the discovery of herself, her family, and her past. But the ultimate realization is the mystery that links her to the mission.
Zara Hanson & the Mystery of the Painted Symbol by J.L. Haynes is a science fiction fantasy novel. It draws inspiration from familiar and unexplained topics about legends, mythology, religion, science, and spirituality. There are references to the Golden Fleece, the story of Jonah and the whale, ancient aliens, Area 51, pyramid at Alaska, nanotechnology, quantum dice, meditation, and reincarnation. It is remarkable how the author creatively weaves these ideas into a cohesive story. The approach gives a fresh take on the usual saving-the-humanity plot of this genre.
The story is action-packed and fast-paced. The adventure takes the team to different locations, so there is not much focus on worldbuilding. But the descriptions of the settings engage the senses. For instance, it describes how the walls of the spaceship change to show the view outside. Also, some scenes use music to set the mood of the characters. Zara has a background song to calm her mind while learning to fly the spacecraft. Likewise, there is a creature that only fights if music is playing. The music gives a cinematic feel which is what I like best in the book.
The novel is replete with a cast of complex and well-developed characters. There is a diversity of creatures in the story. There are giants, cat-like beings, space leviathans, mechanical pets, and other sentient beings in different forms and sizes. The physical appearances are vivid, and the characteristics show in their interactions with one another. For example, there is a vivid description of the eye color, hairstyle, and costume of Zara. Her inquisitive nature surfaces when she encounters a new idea during a discussion. Also, the characters each have extraordinary abilities, but they have limitations. Their combined skills let them surpass tight situations. Zara may not have the same fighting skills as her teammates, but she can smoothly solve riddles. It shows how the story also touches on the value of teamwork.
The use of language adds identity to the characters. Some casts have distinct expressions. Phrases like “we try” or “frak” give a clue on which character is speaking. Interestingly, a giant that does not talk uses body language like clasping her hands or changing her skin color to communicate. Humans use conversational language while other beings sound more formal. There are new words introduced in the story as part of the worldbuilding. Some are long and similar-sounding, which makes them a bit challenging to remember. The narrative provides explanations, but a glossary will be a helpful reference to jog the memory.
Although a future mission hints at a possible sequel, the story closes without cliffhangers. However, throughout the story, there are references to past events. For example, a fighting strategy uses a game previously played by the characters. The game needs more background information to make it more relatable. It seems like there is a prequel, and backstories are not present. It is what I dislike the most.
Except for the first chapter that uses more complex words and sentence structure, the story is easy to follow because of the simple words. Touches of humor balance the philosophical discussions. There are a few borderline profanities. Erotic contents are null, and fight scenes are not gory and violent. The content is inoffensive to any religious group. The book has something for both the young and old. The adventure and fantasy appeal to the young readers of 16 years old and above, while the philosophical discussions are for the mature audience. This book is for those interested in science fiction, fantasy, legends, mythology, philosophy, and spirituality.
The thought-provoking book inspires a rediscovery of the topics covered in the story. However, I have to drop a star. Although not distracting, the editing issues are beyond the count to give the highest rating. That said, I gladly give 3 out of 4 stars.
Zara Hanson & The Mystery of the Painted Symbol
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