3 out of 4 stars
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While books from the science fiction and fantasy genres often get lumped into one category for deviating from real life, its not uncommon for the differences between the two classifications to be debated by hardcore fans of either genre. However, Preda's Voice by Carolyn Gross is one of those novels that blurs the boundaries between the two purportedly different genres. This is the first book in the Guardians of Vaka series targeted toward teen and young adult readers.
Preda grew up under her strict father's control, believing that her voice was dangerous and caused harm to others. As a result, she has lived an almost silent existence, speaking only to her one-eared cat, and moving from place to place as her father deemed her a threat to others around them. But when her father is suddenly murdered, Preda uses her voice to protect herself, which lands her in the care of Detective Fox. Rather than arresting her for her deviant act, he introduces her to others who have devoted their lives to protecting the last remaining descendant of the Vozia family -- the powerful rulers of their homeland, on the brink of war with a group of rebels who will stop at nothing to wipe out those they consider a danger to their existence. Preda suddenly finds herself having to use her voice more and more to exert herself in this new position of power.
The concept of having a voice with such powerful abilities was so much fun to read about, especially in the beginning of the book when Preda saw her voice as something dangerous to be avoided. I loved this idea from the moment I read the description of the book. The emotions that Preda must have felt, especially the terror and fear of having such an inexplicable gift, were well-portrayed as part of Preda's character development.
Other than that, I must admit that I had a hard time getting into this book, most notably during the second half of the story. The description of the book, and the first half of the book itself, led me to believe that this would be a fantasy story about a coming-of-age tale as a girl grows into some magical powers she has been gifted. In reality, this book is actually quite heavy in the science fiction genre. It reminds me of a Star Trek type of story, with the incorporation of space travel, evolutionary differences across planets, and civil war among different classes of alien beings. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of such types of tale, so the last half of the book felt especially tedious for me to read as the story veered off in an unexpected direction. Detailed scenes of meetings dragged out the story even further, and a few times, I just didn't want to continue reading.
As opposed to the timid Preda we were introduced to at the beginning of the story, the new Preda from the second half of the book takes all of this new information about different worlds with amazing ease and jumps right into her new role without much help. She seems to do no wrong throughout the majority of the story. She deals with socioeconomic and political factors and makes perfect declarations in her new position of power. Even within a fantasy/sci-fi book, I found this to be extremely difficult to wrap my head around. It would have been nice to see the main character display flaws or make mistakes, especially given the unusual circumstances she has been tossed into.
While the book started out strongly and introduced amazing characters, the latter half of the book seemed to weaken the overall quality of the story. I acknowledge that someone who is a bigger fan of science fiction might think differently, which is why I have decided to give this book a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. The writing itself is excellent, but I really think that fans looking for a fantasy book, like me, are not the target audience for this book. Science fiction fans, or those who enjoy blurred lines of genres, will definitely enjoy this one.
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