“The Moreva of Asteroth” is an interesting blend of science-fantasy where we are presented to a whole new galaxy occupied by blue skinned, white haired “gods”, and the humanoid people who worship them. Our main character is a rather arrogant scientist who is also a spiritual leader to the haoki, the lesser race that worships the main characters’, Tehi, grandmother. But her disdain for these people lands her in trouble, and Tehi finds herself banished to a kind of wasteland where she is tasked with learning about compassion for the hakoi, but that is far from the only thing she’ll discover. Like I said, a really interesting concept! Bland has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about her new world and crafting its language and the lands her characters inhabit. And yet…. I still struggled with this book.
I won’t spoil anything in the story, but needless to say, there was A LOT going on. Everything from Tehi overcoming her own prejudices, trying to find a cure for a deadly disease, introducing and showcasing a new religion, love and romance, classism, identity altering epiphanies, and all on top of Tehi trying to stay one step ahead of those who would see her punished, or even executed, for her beliefs and failures. One or two of those plot lines would have been enough for one book, but using all of them meant there was always something going on, or there should have been. But the repetitive style of the writing had me really close to DNFing this book on several occasions.
We are told everything about Tehi’s days. Literally everything. We are told step by step how Tehi puts on her clothes, takes off her clothes, prepares the Temple, and conducts her experiments…. At first, I thought that maybe there was a reason for giving the reader all these steps, like there was some greater significance to all of it, but as I kept reading, I realized there wasn’t. And every single time Tehi dresses or checks the time, or eats, we are told step by step how she does this, and it just slows everything down and creates a ton of unnecessary filler between the action, plot, and sub-plots. It became such a struggle sometimes to get through the book because of how much time was spent on just the act of dressing alone, which is a shame, for the plot beneath all of that was interesting!
Had that been the only issue, I might have been more lenient with my rating, but I struggled with the characters, as well. Outside of the grandfatherly healer, Hyme, I had a hard time connecting with Tehi or Teger. The romance between the characters never felt real to me, and neither did their sudden desire for each other. There was just very little substance to them, and when there were moments of passion, they seemed to come at times that did not make sense, which pulled me even farther away from the love story Bland was creating.
I also struggled with the huge epiphany that Tehi receives, and how easily she seemed to go along with it. Everything she knows, or thinks she knows as a fact, are turned upside down, and in the same chapter, she gets over it. Then, in the very next chapter, all the other obstacles facing the characters get wrapped up very … neatly. Given the rest of the pacing, this—oddly enough—felt so rushed, that it came off as unbelievable to me. All of the crucial elements of the book came in the last few chapters but by then, I was already burnt out so I never experienced the reaction Bland was hoping to evoke in her readers when Tehi learns the truth, nor when she goes home to face her “godly” grandmother. Which is a shame, because that could have been such an impactful moment.
Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me. The pacing was too slow for my tastes, and I couldn’t connect to the characters. I struggled with keeping track of the new ways of telling time and measurements that are presented to the reader in the index (which on a Kindle are hard to go back to for reference). I couldn’t grasp the religion, especially the religious garb and practices—which had an odd BDSM feel that didn’t really seem to fit…. Hopefully, if other editions come out for the novel similar to all the alternate covers, the repetitive descriptions of all the mundane activities are removed so the pacing stays much more steady, and the book doesn’t take so long to get through. Like I said, Bland crafts a truly interesting world which addresses so many topics and throws a lot of conflict at her main characters, it just gets lost in all the unnecessary data, and the lackluster characters left me feeling rather ambivalent about the whole experience. So this is a 2.5 star rating for me though I can see why others would enjoy it. And thank you to the author for providing me a review copy!
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