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Friday, August 12, 2011

PERCEPTION by Heather Cashman

May 2011 Smashwords Publishing
Review Copy

Important Stats

Genre Sci-Fi/science fanatasy
Re-Readable probably
Recommend to a Friend possibly
If This Book Were a Movie it would be the movie that gets lost in translation, but sold big overseas.

The Blurb
More than five hundred years after the apocalypse, the survivors of off-grid genetic experimentation have refined their mixed DNA to the point that humans and their animal counterparts share physical and mental links. Varying species have divided into districts, living in a tenuous peace under the President of Calem.

Ardana and her tiger ingenium Rijan leave their life of exile and abuse in the Outskirts, setting out with their twin brothers to redeem themselves and become citizens of the Center. But shedding their past isn’t as easy as they had hoped. When the system that shunned them becomes embroiled in political conflict and treachery, their unique abilities and experiences from the Outskirts make them invaluable to every faction. The runaways become pawns to friends as well as enemies, and with every step it becomes more difficult to tell which is which.

The Outskirts

Near Dark, Day 163, Year 547

Be careful. Rijan’s faint thought echoed from deep in the forest where she hunted with her brother, Adamas.

I will. My thought reached to Rijan, my ingenium. I watched, rapt with admiration for my great white tiger, the other half of my soul. Her vision momentarily clouded my mind: a large buck bounding through the forest ahead and Adamas, my brother Kade’s ingenium, concealed not far distant.

Hearing only the twittering and snapping sounds of the forest behind me, I peeked around the small wooden message board. The area was deserted. Small puffs of dust betrayed my steps as I crept, cat-like, behind the northern row of two-story shops with their owners’ apartments above.

A lifetime of cruelty had ingrained a correlation in our minds: going to see Kade would risk the loss of a few meals. I paused to reconsider and stared at the strange colors of dusk, a bright orange on the horizon that melted into a deep purple. Our mother Maran could no longer beat me, and we would be of age in little more than a ten-day. The news from the message board left me no other option. I blazed down the back of the buildings like fire in dry grass. My legs and chest tightened with the anticipation of seeing him and the fear of possible discovery...

My Thoughts
I went into this book expecting something very different. It was pitched to me as an SFR/sci-fi novel and so I went in with certain expectations. That's why we have genres after all, they help set the stage. Even the blurb doesn't do a good job of setting up the story. But once I figured out what genre we were in (science fantasy is being generous, this is high fantasy with a scientific explanation for magic) then things progressed smoothly.

-- The Good --
The world that Ardana (called Ana for most of the book) lives in is wonderful. The world-building is beautifully done. It's easy to picture the surroundings and slide into the story. I also enjoyed the sense of humor and depth put into a main male love interest (no spoilers). Once he came on scene (a few chapters in) the book really picked up and things fell into place.

By the end of the book I was ready to pick up the next one. I want to see what happens to the characters.

--The Bad--
The novel started rough. I'm usually in favor of starting in the action, but I didn't expect to start in a jungle so I spent the first chapter in confusion. The vocabulary is series-specific, until you understand the new nouns the sentences don't always make sense. Context clues are there, so don't be daunted, just be aware that this is going to be a learning experience.

My other major complaint was that the book felt drafty. I've made this complaint before, often about popular novels. What I saw as a reader was... fluffy. The storyline skimmed right over all the deep drops. My emotions as a reader were never invoked. I never really feared for the characters, because I was never close enough to the characters to feel their fear.

Ana, the POV character is a weak narrator. She starts with the typical refusal to feel emotions, that's something we expect. She doesn't want to get married, and the reader understands why. It's very clear why Ana has these horrible views of commitment, we're told why every few pages. But telling doesn't get the job done. Ana comes off as indifferent towards her persecutors and that leaves the story weak. You can't have a high point if you don't see the low points.

The by-product of Ana's indifference is a sense of separation when the plot starts to move fast and the reader needs to understand why the characters are getting embroiled in the political intrigue of the Tiger District. A dead father's wishes aren't a compelling enough reason to attempt suicide. At least not in my opinion. I didn't understand why the characters didn't walk away, why they couldn't go somewhere new. As much as I enjoyed the adventure I still felt like a baffled spectator rather than a loyal cheerleader.

Who Should Read This Book?
Fans of science-fantasy and epic high fantasy will enjoy the intrigue and world-building. Anyone who enjoys the stories of Vlad Taltos and his companion Loiosh, the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey, or the Farseekers Trilogy will enjoy this complex world.

Heather Cashman graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s in Biochemistry but has always loved to write, winning her first contest in the second grade. She welcomes opportunities to visit schools, libraries, and book groups in person or via Skype. Born in Tucson, Arizona, Heather currently lives near Wichita, Kansas with her husband and three children.


  1. Thanks for the honesty, good and bad. This continues to be a learning process for me, but every comment helps to make me a better writer. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you put in to this review.

  2. I enjoyed the book, it just wasn't what I was expecting. Expectations are a double-edged sword for authors, but I know several people I will recommend the book to because it's right up their alley. :o)

  3. Thanks for the review, I will be linking this to mine when I post in a few weeks, Thanks Lisa bookhimdanno.blogspot.com