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Protector of Thristas

Protector of Thristas: A Lisen of Solsta Novel

Hart St. Martin takes us back to the lands of Garla and Thristas in Protector of Thristas, a novel that takes place fifteen years after the tumultuous One Day War. Rinli is the daughter of Korin and Lisen, and due to a prophecy created at her birth, she’s destined to be the Protector of the desert land of Thristas. While trying to guide Rinli on her path to becoming Protector, Lisen is faced with something far more challenging than ever before: she must do everything in her power to gain her teenage daughter’s long-lost sense of trust.

After becoming so invested in the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, I was thrilled to grab a copy of Protector of Thristas. There’s nothing I enjoy more than watching a fantasy world evolve over generations. Lisen and Korin have three children – Rinli, Nasera, and Insenlo – but Rinli is the only one who has a prophecy that she must fulfill.

Through highly emotional moments in the novel, the story definitely emulates how exhausting it is for the whole family when they are all separated. The story jumps between Avaret (the city where Lisen rules as Empir of Garla) and Thristas, where Rinli is required to stay for periods of time. The two lands have a very tense relationship, which forced Lisen to designate Rinli as the Protector of Thristas in an attempt to resolve these issues. As a result, Rinli and Korin must travel between the two lands several times a year.

As a sucker for romantic subplots, I loved seeing how fifteen years of marriage has impacted Korin and Lisen – due to the constant traveling on Korin’s end, they’ve grown even closer than they were in the first trilogy. Their bond even causes Korin to develop psychic-like powers, where he can sense when something bad is happening to Lisen or Rinli.

One of my favorite things about this novel is how Rinli has Lisen’s stubbornness and Korin’s perceptiveness, and her development throughout the novel kept the story captivating and fun. Something that separates her from her mother is that Rinli has an affinity for the desert land of Thristas, and her loyalty to Thristas is compounded by her close relationship with Madlen, her most trusted companion. She is especially resistant to the idea that she has her mother’s magic abilities, and this gets her into trouble at a few points in the novel.

Themes of forgiveness and trust pop up throughout the novel, highlighting the tense mother-daughter relationship between Lisen and Rinli. Hart weaves this tension throughout the entire plot, bringing the reader closer to these characters. Lisen can’t forgive herself for sentencing Rinli to her fate as the Protector of Thristas, while Rinli struggles to trust her mother. When Rinli discovers she may need her mother’s wisdom in order to understand her responsibility as a Protector, the two begin to develop a relationship.

Protector of Thristas is an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least, and it’s a breath of fresh air in a sea full of action-forward fantasy novels. As entrenched in fantasy as it is, this novel does a beautiful job of capturing raw human emotions of happiness, anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear, especially when dealing with challenging mother-daughter relationships and the connections between a parent and a child. The cliffhanger ending left me feeling some of those emotions myself, and I can’t wait to see if Hart will continue sharing more adventures from this world.

Pages: 452 | ASIN: B01E7NYLRI

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Painful Sacrifice

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen will affect the future of the Garlan people. When writing the first book in the series did you know where you would end up in this third book or did it come about organically?

Fractured and Tainted had been written, rewritten and re-formed at least 3 or 4 times. I had a plan for where it was going to go, a plan that would provide redemption for Lisen. Or so I thought. Then the friend, to whom I tell everything, said–after hearing my idea for the finale–“but how does Nalin feel about that?” Boom. Lisen’s redemption would lean on Nalin’s painful sacrifice, something I hadn’t seen until this friend pointed it out. Back to the drawing board. During the year I spent re-forming and rewriting Tainted, I made notes, 11 pages single spaced, to find the story that would bring closure to the series. No organization by plot points whatsoever; the notes were organized based on the date I entered them into the file. Once Tainted was complete, I put the notes together in the order they occurred in the story, then wrote them out on 4 x 6 cards for each scene. I had 57 cards at that point. By the time I finished the first draft, I had 94. I did, however, have the ending when Lisen and Korin are finally alone together all prepared well in advance, including the little bit at the end about the fairy tales (which I had word for word). So, the short answer is yes, it came about organically because I had no idea where I was going when I wrote the first two books.

The cover art for your three books are very well done. What decisions went into the art direction for the covers?

My cover artist, Aidana WillowRaven of WillowRaven Illustration and Design, is brilliant, and she definitely knows her stuff. She has taught me a lot about the art of the cover. We began with book II because I’d already created a cover for book I, and I was about to publish II. The process began with bringing Lisen to life. We worked back and forth for quite a while. The plan was to show her pouch through the material of the gown she’s wearing. We worked through several drafts of that. Then we came to the mutual decision that in order for the cloth the gown was made of to be transparent enough to see the pouch, it would end up showing things we thought inappropriate for a YA book. So the pouch disappeared behind the gown. It was a pity, but on the other hand, it leaves some of it up to the reader to fill in for him/herself.

After finishing up the cover for Tainted, we turned to replace my cover of Fractured. My desire was always to show a pivotal moment from the book. For Tainted, it seemed natural to show Lisen up on the top of the mesa after the Farii. For Fractured, the moment she falls apart after running from the chaos in Halorin was an obvious choice. For Blooded, I originally wanted the Garlan throne. Aidana loves slipping into alien worlds, and I had described the throne in the book specifically for her to have fun with. She informed me, in her experienced opinion, that with the covers of the first two books being set outside with a character in them, we needed to guard the brand and stick with that formula. I hated losing the throne (though it does remain in the book), but she was right. So the moment I chose was the one where Lisen and Korin must part after the blood bath in the Khared. (If you look closely, you can see Lisen’s eyes are black because she’s still blind.) This put both Korin and Pharaoh on the cover with Lisen. My artist definitely had a great deal of fun with Pharaoh. Korin was a challenge to be sure. I had some very definite ideas, as did she, but we got through it, and that cover is my favorite.

What were some things you wanted to clear up or wrap up in this final book in the series?

One important thread was what would happen to Lisen and Korin’s baby and whether or not they would finally find each other. The other was Lorain. The first was easy; the second, not so much. I knew what I had to do, but not how to set that up. Then the idea of a truly treasonous act rose up before me as a gift, with a little inspiration from Game of Thrones.

Was there anything that you didn’t have time to get to or wanted to leave open ended?

What I wanted to explore but had no place for in a YA trilogy was who would Lisen be (along with the other major characters) as she grew into her role as Empir. So when I finished Blooded and sent it off to Amazon, I sat back wondering what to work on next. I have several barely touched projects I could have turned to, but Lisen called. Rinli called. And it was at that juncture that I returned to Garla and Lisen 15 years on.

What is the next book that you’re working on? A continuation of the Lisen of Solsta series or a new series?

Yes, the Lisen saga continues. The first book, Protector of Thristas, is already finished and available. It begins 15 years on and follows the relationship between Lisen and Rinli. Let me tell you, a 15-year-out Rinli was an interesting character to place into the mix, and her two younger siblings are complex beings as well. And how has Korin reconciled his two roles–captain of the Guard and Empir-spouse? I answered most of my own questions that hinged on “what next?” and then, at the very end, created one hell of corner to paint myself out of in the book or books that will follow. I hesitate to commit to one or two as the “one” book I’m working on now grows longer and longer and will likely end up broken into two books. But this will conclude the story for me. I have an ending that I find satisfying and look forward to sharing it with others to see what they think.

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Blooded (Lisen of Solsta Book 3) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]“From the award-winning author of Fractured and Tainted comes Blooded, the finale to the Lisen of Solsta trilogy. After committing an act that terrifies her in its calculated coldness, and losing Korin, her valued companion, as a result, Lisen shuts down emotionally, allowing her to perform her duties as the Empir of Garla. But the arrival of a child, an abduction culminating in captivity and a drug called gryl provide Lisen with new insights, and faced with a civil war, she opens up to startling perceptions which offer a unique solution to the conflict.

Will Korin relent and reveal the secret he’s kept from her? Will Lisen come to forgive herself for her self-perceived sins? Will she recover the sense of family support that she once felt on Earth? Will she ever feel anything but alone again? Or will the nightmare of reality overwhelm her as the story concludes in this final volume? In a story that brings traitors to justice and two opposing lands to an inevitable confrontation, Blooded completes the Lisen of Solsta trilogy.”

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It’s Do or Die

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted takes readers back to the land of Garla and introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. What was the inspiration for these fantastically imagined worlds?

Truthfully, I based them on my home of Southern California with the cooler areas to the west of the mountains and the desert to the east. My picture was more of Rome or Greece at the height of their power than of some middle European medieval land, and the white-marble and columned Avaret Keep exemplifies the architectural feel I was looking for. When it came to Thristas, I love the desert. Lisen’s response of awe as she and Korin come through the Pass and she sees Thristas for the first time expresses my feelings about the deserts of California. Most people see deserts as dry, sterile places, but they teem with life–both animal and plant life. My inspiration was to show the breadth and depth of this life and its influence on a people who had lived there for many generations, establishing a culture separate from Garla’s and giving their lives a meaning dependent on no one save themselves.

Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. How did you tackle character development in this story that is different from book 1?

Lisen is, of course, a work in progress. It is absolutely essential that she struggle to find who she is in this mess that she sees as her life. All bets are off for her. It’s do or die, and as she begins to realize that she cannot win without cheating and that she must win in order to fulfill her mother’s hope for her, she also recognizes that she must find a way to become a person who she isn’t quite yet. I loved exploring her hidden spaces and corners, seeking out the fortitude within her to make it possible for her to do what she does at the end of the book. And when the degree of her ferocity came to me one day driving home from the grocery store in the guise of that moment when she cuts off her braids and then tells Nalin she never was a hermit, I knew I’d found the Lisen she needed to find on her journey.

There is a holiday in this story called Evenday/Evennight. How did you come up with this idea and develop it in your story?

You will note that in Garla, they call it Evenday because they live and work under the light of the sun. On the other hand, the Thristans call it Evennight because the center of their lives, the time conducive to productivity, is in the dark, away from the searing heat of that very light the Garlans worship. This day on earth is called the vernal equinox, and I saw the Thristans as being closer to nature and therefore more likely to attach a more spiritual importance to it than the Garlans. Hence their centering of an entire ritual around it, while the Garlans celebrate it more casually. A lot of the Thristan culture revolves around something akin to the nature-centered cultures of our own world, including Wicca.

Where does the third book in the Lisen of Solsta series take readers?

Two major questions remain. What happens to Korin and the special “package” he carries away from Lisen and Avaret at the end of Tainted? And what the heck are they going to do about the unstoppable Lorain? Lisen has seen Thristas for herself and is apparently the first Empir to have done so, and that alone puts her in a unique position in her dealings with Thristas as their “Protector.” I think, however, that the most fascinating aspect that opened itself up to me for inquiry was how the miracle of child-bearing might affect a man. I explored and hopefully resolved the questions and conflicts raised by the events in the first two books by digging deeper into both Garlan and Thristan culture and by opening up the possibilities for redemption for Lisen but only if she can accept the fact that as Empir she has responsibilities that sometimes require desperate and even cruel measures to fulfill them.

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Tainted (Lisen of Solsta Book 2) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]

“In Fractured, Lisen Holt, Valley girl, beach lover, learned she doesn’t belong on Earth. Re-adapting to Garla, the place of her birth, proved difficult, but the greater challenge was learning that she is the Heir-Empir and must confront her brother for the throne. Witnessing her only friend’s murder, defending her own life with forbidden power, and succumbing to possession by her friend’s soul left Lisen fractured, with little hope she’d ever recover.

The story grows darker in Tainted with Lisen and her guardian companion, Korin, traveling to the great desert of Thristas. They hope to find safety in the anonymity of the barren wilderness, out of the range of Garlan spies. There, Lisen learns the ways of Thristas and its fierce people who view Garla’s Empir as a tyrant. In an effort to prove their sincerity, Lisen and Korin participate in the Farii, the spring fertility ritual which changes everything for Lisen. She returns to Garla with a brilliant but damning plan that she believes will ensure her victory against her brother.”

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Blooded

Blooded (Lisen of Solsta, #3)4 Stars

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded by D. Hart St. Martin takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen as Empir of Garla will affect the future of the Garlan people. After ascending to the throne, Lisen must make major decisions while facing her own physical and mental battles alone, especially when she’s captured by rebel Thristans for a period of time. On the verge of a devastating war, Lisen and the holders of Garla face the bloodthirsty Thristans in a battle that reveals the truth of the hermit’s prophecy and whether peace can ever truly arise between the two nations.

In Blooded, the concluding piece of the Lisen of Solsta series, Lisen becomes Empir Ariannas—without Korin at her side, though, she struggles with this new sense of authority. As a result, Nalin becomes a vital figure who assists Lisen with developing the knowledge and skills needed to rule over Garla, and he becomes even more important when Lisen is captured by rebel Thristans. Blooded also follows Korin’s return to his homeland, Thristas, and he experiences his own dilemmas, as he realizes his connection to Lisen is much deeper than he originally thought—in this world, where gender norms are shattered, men or women can carry a child, and Korin is carrying his and Lisen’s baby (unknown to Lisen).

Hart St. Martin’s impressive fantasy world construction throughout the entire Lisen of Solsta series kept me so absorbed in the story that I couldn’t put this last book down—I had to know how the series ended because I felt genuinely invested in these carefully-constructed characters. For example, along with everyone else in Garla and Thrista, Lisen resembles a human, but she has a flat chest, a furry belly, and a marsupial-like pouch. In Blooded, we learn more about the “unpouching” or birthing process in this world by witnessing two important “outcomings” or births. St. Martin makes these moments suspenseful and full of emotion by showing two birthing events from different perspectives.

While Korin is raising his and Lisen’s child in Thristas, Lisen faces her own mental struggles when she realizes that the Thristans are planning to go to war with Garla. This climactic moment in the plot, where Lisen and her Council devise a plan for war, showcases the dynamic development of both Nalin’s and Lisen’s characters throughout the series.

During Lisen’s abduction by the rebels, Nalin becomes a strong-minded, confident leader, commanding Lisen’s Council to make major decisions in Lisen’s absence. On the other hand, Lisen sets aside her typical sarcastic, sassy attitude and at times she reveals her emotional turmoil a bit more, as she feels overwhelmed by death piling up around her and the possibility of war. Bala, a significant character from Tainted, becomes instrumental to the plot of Blooded once she’s granted a spot on Lisen’s private Council—when the Garlans go to war, Bala shows her true colors as an assertive leader for her troops.

It’s rare to find a series of books that keeps your interest until the very end, and the end of Blooded and the Lisen of Solsta series left me feeling a great sense of closure. With characters that felt so real within a uniquely constructed fantasy world, this series captures the best aspects of the fantasy genre while also pushing the genre’s boundaries through constructing a gender non-conforming world.

Pages: 420 | ASIN: B00R8K8XXQ

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Tainted

Tainted (Lisen of Solsta, #2)4 Stars

In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted by D. Hart St. Martin takes the reader back to the land of Garla and also introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. After overcoming a harrowing event, Lisen must develop her strength in order to fulfill her destiny: to become the Empir of Garla. With the loyal Captain Rosarel at her side, Lisen hides away in the desert lands of Thristas, growing in ways she’d never imagined. Tainted by dark impulses that threaten to destroy her, Lisen must ultimately decide which promises she’ll break and which promises she’ll keep.

After reading Fractured, the first book in the Lisen of Solsta series, I was pretty psyched to read Tainted. The book begins where the first one left off—Lisen of Solsta, the heroine of the story, is recovering from almost succumbing to madness beyond the point of no return. Once she’s fully recovered, she continues her trek with Captain Korin Rosarel to Avaret in order to face her brother, Ariel Ilazer, who is currently ruling as Empir.

In a decision to keep her safe, Korin takes Lisen to Thristas, a desert land with a unique way of life. Under the guise of two former Guards in love, they discover that Lisen must commit to cultural rituals that threaten to change their relationship. I’m always a sucker for romantic subplots in fantasy novels, and this twist creates a romantic tension that continues to develop throughout the novel, morphing into a love triangle once Nalin’s feelings become revealed.

Even with the romantic subplot, Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. St. Martin does an excellent job with maintaining strong values in Lisen— overcoming gender norms, Lisen fights off forces that try to weaken her, and she continually quips sassy, sarcastic remarks. It’s fun to watch Lisen adapt to different environments, especially once she discovers her true purpose in life. Even while Korin and Lisen continue with combat training, Lisen has her own plans, as she secretly trains her mind and develops her necropathic powers.

What excited me most about this sequel was how intricately St. Martin wove the other characters into the plot. My favorite example of this is in a chapter about “Evenday/Evennight,” a holiday in the land of Garla and Thristas. Ariel and Lorain, his soon-to-be spouse and the mother of his unborn child, have a drastically different Evennight than the other characters— especially Korin and Lisen, who experience Farii, a Thristan fertility ritual. Through taking various characters’ perspectives, St. Martin creates unique vantage points for the reader during such a heightened moment in the plot. There’s a few characters that I wished were featured more often, such as Bala and Titus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if those characters play a bigger role in the third book.

After weaving multiple characters’ perspectives throughout the novel, the final chapters, filled with fast-paced action and a few plot twists, bring all the characters’ paths together in a masterful way. Ending with a cliffhanger regarding the fates of Korin and Lisen, I can’t wait to see what happens next in the final book of the trilogy.

Pages: 350 | ASIN: B00GCYAYVS

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The Darkness in the Light

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

Fractured is a captivating story of heroism, greed, and fulfilling one’s destiny. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

Dune is perhaps my favorite book ever. I read it back in the day. After reading Dune Messiah, I was sure I knew what would happen next. When Children of Dune was published, I read it and threw it across the room, saying, “If Frank Herbert won’t write the book I want to read, I’ll write it.” I had no idea what I was doing, and I certainly had no concept whatsoever of where this first step of the journey would take me. But I knew I needed a “gimmick.” That’s when the idea of a world where sexism had never existed entered the story, but what began as a gimmick became an opportunity to define character with the facets of light and dark that exist in all of us rather than by the character’s genitalia and served as a significant guide to my world-building. Who are these beings that in their society there is no division of labor by gender? What differences between earth humans and the people of Garla (physical and mental) would bring such a thing about?

Lisen is a complex teenage girl that is brought to life by your writing style. What were the morals you were trying to caputre while creating your characters?

None of my characters is either all good or all bad. I revel in the gift of digging down deep and finding the darkness in the light and vice versa. For me, each character deserves the opportunity to show the reader all they’ve got and allow the reader to judge for herself. As for morals, I believe that one must know how to think before one can make any moral decision. Even then, the moral decision may not be the best decision at the moment. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice the “good” thing for the “right” thing (a major decision in book 2 illustrates that). Luckily, Lisen comes into the story with some pretty strong ethics that have been taught to her by the Holts, her guardians on earth. This allows me as the writer to challenge those ethics and see how she does.

What I loved most about the novel is that it plays with the idea of who is truly in charge of shaping our path in life. Did you put any of yourself or your experiences into this book?

I have always had a strong connection to the dead, but certainly not to the extent that Lisen does with her gift as a necropath. I think one of the most interesting aspects of the story is the character of Flandari, a woman too tightly wound to give her son any love at all and who is ultimately stolen away from Lisen before Lisen gets a chance to know her. My mother was a distant woman, and I realized after creating the character of Flandari that she was very like my own mother. Unlike me, however, Lisen finds a way to love. She makes a friend in Jozan, and there is clearly something going on with her Captain Cutie. She’s open to the possibilities, and this is thanks to her time with the Holts.

Fractured is book 1 in the Lisen of Solsta series. Where does book to take the characters and what do you invision for the series in the future?

There are 3 more books already available: Tainted, book 2, in which Lisen must come to terms with what to do about her brother (and which contains the true beginning of the match between her and Korin); Blooded, book 3, which finds Lisen struggling with this new mantle on her shoulders of Empir; and Protector of Thristas, book 4, which begins fifteen years after the end of Blooded because I wanted to know who these people became when they grew up. I am currently working on what was originally book 5 and the final book. However, it’s turning into a longer project than originally planned, and although it will still put an end to the story, it’s likely to be two books rather than one.

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Fractured (Lisen of Solsta Book 1) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]“Seventeen-year-old Lisen Holt only begins to realize that her life is fractured after a sorcerer abducts her from a California beach and brings her home to Garla. She awakens at Solsta Haven, a refuge for the spiritual members of Garlan society known as hermits. The sorcerer, Hermit Eloise, has returned Lisen?s body to its true form?a human-like marsupial with no visible breasts and a fuzzy pouch just above where her bellybutton once was. She then restores Lisen?s memory of her first ten years in Garla, leaving her earthly existence behind but not forgotten. Although she is Lisen of Solsta now, questions haunt her, questions Eloise refuses to answer. Who are the parents who left her at Solsta? Why did Eloise send her to Earth? And what is so important about her that Eloise has manipulated so much of her life? The answers will propel Lisen into a quest for a throne, and all that will stand between her and her birthright is her matricidal twin of a brother.”

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Fractured: Lisen of Solsta

Fractured (Lisen of Solsta, #1)4 Stars

Lisen is not your average seventeen-year-old hermit in the mystical land of Garla.  D. Hart St. Martin’s first book in the Lisen of Solsta series, Fractured, takes us on Lisen’s complicated journey of discovering her destiny in a land where people will pay a high price to obtain power. After spending seven years on Earth, Lisen is brought back to Garla to fulfill her fate: become the Empir, bring peace to Garla, and prevent her tyrannical brother from taking over the throne. With the aid of nobles, captains, and magical hermits, Lisen learns how to adapt to the pressures of her new life, embrace her destiny, and win the battle raging inside her head.

Fractured by D. Hart St. Martin is a captivating story of heroism, greed, and fulfilling one’s destiny; but what makes this novel so unique is how the characters, and the world itself, break gender stereotypes and social norms. Fractured is Book One in the Lisen of Solsta series, and this book focuses on the life of Lisen Holt, or rather, Lisen of Solsta. The novel begins with the kidnapping of seventeen-year-old Lisen on a beach in California. Once she comes to her senses, Lisen finds that she’s been taken to Garla, a world that resembles the magical-medieval world of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Astonished with every new discovery she makes, Lisen learns about her new “home” in Solsta, the land of hermits (people with mystical powers who are removed from society). Most interestingly of all, Lisen discovers that she used to live there as a child, but due to a prophetic vision, her guardians hid her away on Earth for seven years to ensure no harm came to her. Thus, when she returns to Garla and Solsta, Lisen feels both uncertainty and vague familiarity, and her memories (and necropathic skills) slowly return over time.

What I loved most about the novel is that it plays with the idea of who (or what) is truly in charge of shaping our “path” in life. It calls into question the idea of fate, and Lisen initially pushes against her destiny when she’s told that she’s the heir of Garla. Lisen also suffers from a memory lapse and must go through extensive training with Captain Rosarel and Holder Corday before she can take over as Empir (or ruler), in order to prevent her tyrannical brother from ruling Garla. I find this theme particularly interesting when combined with the “hero’s journey” plotline, as Lisen is much more complex than the archetypical “hero.” Throughout the novel, Lisen goes through stages of grief once she discovers she can no longer access her old life back on Earth, but several events throughout her journey prove what her life’s purpose truly is.

While some of the minor characters’ voices (such as Eloise and Nalin) were drowned out by the main characters, Lisen is truly brought to life through Hart St. Martin’s fluid and compelling writing style. I thought Lisen’s personality was fun and authentic; Hart St. Martin accurately captured the sassy attitude of a teenager who’s forced to learn a whole new way of living (I mean, who wouldn’t be sassy about that?). While she seems to have accepted her fate by the end of the novel, it’ll be interesting to see where Lisen’s “destiny” takes her next.

Pages: 317 | ASIN: B0098RN2KG

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