Katya's World is a novel unlike most I've read recently. I've been agonising over this review for a while in how to phrase the experience of reading. This novel isn't perfect, but I don't think anything truly can be; it's an ideal that doesn't exist, but it's a brilliant concept! It blends the young-adult genre and the technicality of science-fiction into something that's enjoyable, understanding and engaging.
Russalka. A world inhabited by descendants from Earth who are Russian. Sounds simple enough, until you add into the fact they are no outer space, long estranged from Earth and their original culture and all they hold is the name. Howard creates an entirely new race of people, with a different system and a very different form of survival. Submarines are not our common commute method, but Russalka is basically water with different communities built on these platforms. The world building is pretty fabulous and all this background built around it really impressed me. Howard really makes his writing an craft rather than an art.
"The first act of the thousands selected was to name their new home. They looked to folklore and chose the name Russalka, after a race of mermaids, beautiful and mysterious. If they had looked deeper into the myth, they might have changed their minds - a Russalka was a predator that would use her charms to draw men to the water, where they would be drowned and fed upon."
Our main character is Katya Kuriakova who certainly has her share of turmoil. Katya to us seems rather young and this makes her all the more astounding as a main character. She's forced to grow up quickly and she shows all the intelligence and maturity she shows reflects the harsh, gritty reality of Russalka. If you're looking for a tale of flowers and happiness, don't expect to find it here because whilst Katya's World isn't without hope, it's not one for the fainthearted. I liked Katya as a character and I thought she was intuitive and caring, however my one criticism of the novel would be that we didn't get to know her. The novel is seen through her eyes in first person, and I think Howard kind of forgot to tell us about her. What she looks like and her personality. It unveils rather slowly and not entirely by the end, so I'd just like to know a little more about her as a person that seeing the world through her eyes because when she talked about herself I really visualised her in my head.
"Her damned nose. She was just going to end up looking sweet and, in all likelihood, adorable. It always happened. She could drown a hospital and they'd still let her off for being in possession of a button-nose."
Then there is Kane. I'll not tell you a lot about this guy because there is so much to learn about him and be unveiled as you go along and he's pretty mysterious. I wouldn't want to ruin that for you, but he's a very rugged, surprising character that has a lot of depth and a lot of skeletons in cupboards. He really didn't turn out to be who I thought he'd be and I really appreciated that fact that he was different. I've been tired of the mundane male characters that have to sweep the heroine of their feet. He wasn't dashing or noble and don't expect to be finding romance in Katya's World because this does not focus in the novel. It's a tale about friendship bonds, mysteries, betrayals and loyalty that allow it to bumble along and blossom.
"Kane raised his hands. "Sorry. She's armed and a bit nervous. I should shut up."
Ultimately, something that sold Katya's World to me from the beginning was the fact that it was so unique and engaging. I didn't expect what happened in Katya's World at all. It was entirely unpredictable and all the more fabulous because of it. I felt that at every turn a new twist was being thrown in and we were exploding both literally and figuratively in a whole new direction. It was most impressive.
Then we add in the plethora of secondary characters from Uncle Lukyan, The Chertovka and all the Feds, martials, pirates really round the novel off. This is where Howard flourished with his characterisation, and I felt if this depth had been added to Katya this novel might have just gone above and beyond.
Katya's World might lack romance, but that should never go against the novel because at the moment it really isn't needed. At all. The novel has so much to offer on a plot basis that doesn't need a romance to fill its pages and detract from the story which makes it truly refreshing and engaging. I urge each and everyone of you to go out and get yourself a copy of this novel because hoping on the Russalka Chronicles train that is set to be a trilogy I'm sure is not going to disappoint you.