A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White

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I got this from NetGalley/Orbit and I was really excited but I’m late for my review – sorry I got way behind schedule there for a little bit.

I didn’t know what to expect from this, I didn’t even read the blurb before opening it so when the first scene was about racing futuristic sci-fi cars with wings that run on magic I was sort of taken aback. It was fast paced and fun but took a sharp turn when one of the main characters, Nihla, is on the track and gets attacked. A creepy animalistic type woman ensnares her car in a time-spell and kills her co-pilot over information regarding a map. The attack itself was surreal and trippy, while stuck in a time spell Nihla feels like she can’t breathe or move, the air feels thick and almost like molasses, sounds are distorted and colors are wrong – they’re either faded to black and white or hyper-exaggerated. It created a very creepy and memorable scene. The map supposedly locates the legendary warship known as The Harrow, it’s rumored to have been powerful enough to destroy cities or countries but many don’t believe that never existed.

Mother believes it exists though, and she came after Nihla’s friend and crushed his skull – Nihla barely escapes with her life and hunts down a name she heard her friend say before he died – Elizabeth “Boots”.

Boots is a washed up celebrity of sorts, she made it big a number of years ago with a show called “Finding Hana”. She was a treasure hunter and still is, but she’s long since fallen out of the public’s favor. She’s a “dull” or a “none”, meaning that she’s completely without magical abilities. It’s a rare condition and those afflicted with it have a lot of difficulties fitting into society. She’s older now and sells maps and star charts that supposedly lead to treasures of different sorts. However, her merchandise is starting to lack in quality, many people are going on adventures and coming up empty-handed after expensive expeditions out to the middle of nowhere.

The two POV’s collide around 10% in, so it’s obvious from very early on how these two will be connected in the story.

Nihla tracks down Boots, right as Boot’s debtors find her and they both end up captured and on a spaceship called the Capricious – once upon a time Boots used to serve on this spaceship and these captors used to be peers. It makes for an interesting dynamic and things start getting tense when Mother finds them and attacks the ship with multiple cruisers.

The crew of the Capricious, willing or not, are now on their way to try and track down The Harrow before Mother can get her hands on it.

The world building in this was really unique, there are lots of different types of magic, healing magic, mechanical magic, data magic, life magic etc. Each person is typically born able to tap into one of these sorts of magic and sometimes people take on physical attributes that give away what kind of magic they use. I really love that things like crystal balls exist in the same world as holograms and spaceships – it creates a very fresh and unique atmosphere. Nihla’s magic is based around machinery, she has the Mechanist’s Mark and she’s able to almost meld with her car, she can feel the gears shifting, the tires heating up and wearing down, the pistons in her engine etc. There are tattoo’s that change color based on your emotions and a lot of other really neat stuff I haven’t seen done very often – big points for this book on originality.

I liked one of the characters, but I never entirely warmed to the other. Not surprising given my tastes though, I tend to prefer older characters and worn down characters so Boots appealed to me much more than Nihla. Nihla has grown up sort of pampered, she has enough money to own a small colony, and she’s sort of emotionally distant. She’s pretty self-centered and is absolutely obsessed with her racing which made it hard for me to identify with because I’ve never liked racing of any kind, not even really in video games. One exception being Mario Kart.  So when Nihla was being chased by Mother with two battle cruisers trying to kill her, and all she could think about was the race she was going to miss, I sort of fell out of the moment. I did start to sympathize with her when she was being demonized in the media and her friends were turning against her, thinking she was capable of killing her co-pilot. Boots was much more my style, she has a lot of experience under her belt, she understands the situation they’re in and she’s capable of taking command and getting them out of bad situations.

This was very fast paced, there was something going on in every chapter almost from beginning to end. That’s to be expected I guess when the storyline is about racing, warships, and a crazy woman named Mother. There was a lot of humor in this, although it didn’t always land for me this would definitely qualify as a funny book for some. The humor was often juxtaposed with darker events including character deaths, so maybe it was a tone thing that didn’t work for me, I’m not sure, honestly. There was also a very distinct writing style, words like “holy cats, beat feet, heater” were used a lot and I didn’t totally connect with it.

Overall, I’m really torn on this one, there were parts I really liked and others that just didn’t work for me. I would suggest trying it out and seeing if it’s for you, the world building certainly was fun and it was very original and fresh.

Audience:

  • Science Fantasy
  • Lots of magic
  • lots of tech
  • space battles
  • multi pov
  • female pov
  • fast paced

Ratings:

  • Plot: 11/15
  • Characters: 10/15
  • World Building: 10/15
  • Writing: 11.5/15
  • Pacing: 12.5/15
  • Originality: 13.5/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 6.75/10

Final Score: 76.25/100

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