4 out of 4 stars
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Seven Tiers by Mark Richards is a novel that starts a saga that blends science fiction and fantasy. The inhabitants of Planet Morinth rely on a type of energy called aura. Their lives change when their powers start increasing for no apparent reason, as they don't know that some god-like beings are interfering with the natural course of life on Morinth. Akano Mara is the most powerful auracaster on the planet, but even he is out of his league when he's forced to face a very powerful creature. He tries to warn King Darius of the danger arising on the planet, but the only result he obtains is that he's suspected of treason and imprisoned with his closest collaborators.
The borderline between science fiction and fantasy can be blurred. The label science fantasy is sometimes used to define works that have elements of both genres. This saga is set mainly on Planet Morinth, but other planets are mentioned and some beings are aliens to Morinth. On Morinth, there's aura, which is used like a magical substance. The planet's inhabitants have various powers thanks to aura. Inhabitants mean humans but also creatures we consider mythical such as elves. It's a case when labels are limiting, as the author included elements generally used in different genres. The result is certainly rich and sophisticated.
This saga begins with the disruption of Planet Morinth inhabitants' lives. Even the most powerful auracaster is baffled by such strange events. He and his most trusted companions try to figure them out, but they have to fight a number of creatures. This novel is action-packed, as Akano and the other protagonists have to fight battle after battle, even after getting imprisoned.
Note that the battles can be a bit gory at times. Regeneration is one of the powers given by aura, so there are descriptions of how some characters receive wounds that normally would be fatal that are healed thanks to their regeneration powers. Particularly sensitive readers might find such descriptions too gory even if Mark Richards doesn't go into details.
I liked how the author used battles to show how the various powers work and what kinds of beings live on Planet Morinth together with humans. There is the occasional exposition to offer information about aura such as a case where a flashback is told literally in the form of a lesson held by Akano, who's also a teacher. However, that happens occasionally, so the pace is generally fast.
My only complaint is that only some of the important characters haven't properly defined personalities, and that's a bit of a problem considering that there are many of them. Of course, Mark Richards has all the other books of the saga to do a proper development, but I wish I could get to know all the important characters better since the beginning.
My complaint pales compared to the merits of an action-packed novel full of powerful beings fighting each other with bravery and intensity. Stories about superheroes are still considered a product for young people, not this one. Seven Tiers contains violence, including mentions of rape, and profanity, so I find it suitable for adults.
The book is professionally edited, with just a few errors that didn't detract from my enjoyment. For these reasons, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. Note that this novel hasn't a real ending, as it's just the first book of a saga. If you like science fiction or fantasy stories about beings with superpowers living big adventures that can go beyond planetary settings, I recommend this saga.
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