I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi novels–primarily Star Wars–but rarely have I come across one set with mankind in the distant stars without being a dystopian style novel, especially when the main character is a girl.
Twelve year-old Stephanie Harrington has moved to Sphinx, a planet that hasn’t been colonized very long and thus is still incredibly dangerous. But Spinx hides things other than dangers. There’s an indigenous sentient race hiding in the forests, one that has observed humanity’s arrival with caution and developed an avid taste for celery. When Stephanie disobeys her parents orders and wanders into the forests, an encounter with the planet’s deadliest predator leads her to discover the sentient species which she dubs ‘treecats’. But not everyone shares her thrill of discovery. Some are prone to fear–and greed. And when one person’s actions threaten her new found friends, Stephanie will learn just what lengths she’ll go to in order to protect them.
One of the things that stood out for me in the book was Stephanie Harrington’s voice. The second I read the words “Oh, Daaaddy!” on the opening page I knew that I was dealing with an adolescent kid. I’d used that very same phrase with my own father when I was that age and with the same tone I heard in the book. I also had the same luck with it as Stephanie did–which was none. But more importantly than the words themselves was that everything–from Stephanie’s dialogue to her internal reasoning and reactions to others–were worded like a twelve year old. Not once did she sound like an adult, a talent that isn’t always easy to master in writing.
I also found the treecats as an alien species interesting. Feline in appearance, the treecats communicate telepathically as they have no vocal forms of communication. There also empaths, capable of feeling and influencing the emotions of their own kind. Their capacity to communicate with humans is limited, however, as humans don’t have what the treecats call a ‘mind glow’ and thus cannot receive telepathic thoughts or covey their own. It’s also interesting from a societal standpoint. Could you imagine living in a society with no privacy, where every thought and feeling was known to the general public? I shudder at the thought.
I also liked the pacing of the novel. Even though heart pounding action sequences were few and far between–it is a novel for a younger audience–the plot is structured in such an interesting and intriguing way that I couldn’t put it down despite the lack of fist fights in the pages. In fact, I found watching the relationship between Stephanie and her treecat–Lionheart–developing to be much more interesting.
The only criticism I have is over the portion which describes the telepathic bond that forms when Stephanie and Lionheart first meet. This bond formation is noted only in Lionheart’s POV which–as his kind are empaths and telepaths–isn’t surprising. However, I felt that the bond’s formation was to simple and not descriptive enough. LIonheart merely touches Stephanie’s mind and has difficulty leaving her presence, something that I find disappointing in light of the importance of this moment.
Despite this the book was a wonderful read. I loved the multiple POV’s which were used to great effect as well as the developing bond between Stephanie and Lionheart. This book was well named for there truly is ‘A Beautiful Friendship’ to be found within its pages.
Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog and have no claim to it.