Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a decent week, Reader. Mine has been fairly lowkey and relaxing. Fall classes start next Monday, so this week I got to spend my evenings tackling macramé projects, playing my ukulele, attending a public talk about one of my favorite books, and going to bed earlier than usual! All in all it’s pretty wonderful. Although, the free(ish) time also gave me time to miss being more involved in music. That’s definitely something I want to explore after I earn my Master’s degree.
Today I’m reviewing a truly amazing science fiction book that took me by surprise in the best way possible.
About the Book
Author: Lauren H. Salisbury
Genre: Science Fiction inspired by the Biblical account of Moses
Synopsis: A misfit, a fugitive, and a sacred destiny. Everything changes when all three collide.
In Jiya’s world, the only choice a woman has is who she will marry. When she meets a mysterious off-worlder, she must decide how far she is willing to push the boundaries of Teraburan culture to gain her freedom, and whether that is truly what she wants.
Mahsan has never been accepted for who he is. The sole human raised on an Esarelian cruiser, his attempts to belong led only to disaster and him becoming a fugitive. When he is invited into the home of a Teraburan clan leader, he finds a place where he could finally put down roots. But his past haunts him, and he will need to make peace with it if he wants any kind of future in his new home.
Not everyone approves of Jiya and Mahsan’s friendship, and some will stop at nothing to keep them apart. As the unlikely pair discover their true calling, they will have to confront everything they thought they knew and learn to see themselves as they never have before.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I don’t know why I always forget how amazing this series is. It’s definitely one of the most well-written and philosophically challenging series I have read. In Discernment, we meet characters who struggle to form a coherent view of themselves amidst cultural expectations and a deeper conviction that they are made for something more. Yet, it’s more than that – this book grapples with how we decide who and what to trust. Family? Culture? Intuition? Spiritual leaders? All of these are explored with the careful nuance of an author who knows how to tell an engaging story set in a fictional world while teasing out truths about our own world.
It’s easy to see from the beginning that our protagonist, Jiya, is going to end up married to Mahson, a secondary character we met earlier in the series and who fills the role of Moses in this fictionalized retelling of his life. However, watching the story progress is much more than waiting for the characters to sort their feelings out. We’re introduced to multiple new cultures and learn alongside Mahson how to navigate the world Jiya has always inhabited. Whether it’s entirely realistic or not, I love Jiya’s characterization. She loves her family and culture, but she doesn’t see a place for herself among them, and the way she responds to this tension is visceral and beautiful. She doesn’t want to turn everything upside down or be rebellious just for the sake of rebellion, but she is adamant that who she is cannot be confined into the role she is expected to play. She respectfully works toward the goals her family has set for her while maintaining her sense of self apart from those goals, and because of this I loved watching her interactions with those around her. They respect her because she respects her heritage and family while asserting her beliefs. Over time, her family comes to see value in the nontraditional role she ends up fulfilling. The family interactions as a whole are incredibly satisfying and refreshing.
Whether or not you know or believe in the Biblical account of Moses’ life, Discernment and the other books in the Legacy Chronicles series are just plain good stories. This series makes me reconsider my stance on science fiction; maybe I haven’t fallen out of liking it nearly as much as I thought I had. Perhaps instead I just hadn’t found the right fit of science fiction for me. I greatly enjoy Salisbury’s worldbuilding, even if the extent is a bit jarring at times. There are occasions where I struggled a bit to visualize what was being described, but this never took away from my enjoyment of the story or understanding of the plot. In fact, there were times when I got so into the story that I forgot that I already knew the framework of approximately what should happen next!
My strongest criticism is the way “the God” is introduced and handled toward the end of the book. Jiya’s culture frequently refers to “the All-Seeing One” with vague but understandable, often off-handed statements. In the last few chapters, the All-Seeing One speaks and interacts directly with Mahson. I’ve yet to put my finger on exactly why this representation rubs me the wrong way, but it just felt off. Perhaps it’s because this section was more blatant in its drawing on the Bible than any other section whiel still not being exactly the same – I’m really not sure, but it’s something I’m going to be thinking about for a while.
This is truly a compelling book to read which I enjoyed even more than I anticipated. I cannot wait to see what happens next in this series! Despite being loosely based on ancient source material, Discernment stands solidly on its own as an unique and incredibly worthwhile book. I highly recommend it for fans of science fiction, stories about personal discovery, books with a strong family element, or retellings. I’m giving it an enthusiastic five stars.
This is one of the most satisfying reviews I have written in a while, and I don’t think it is only because I have more time to spend on it since I am between semesters! I really hope that you will check this series out if anything in my review or the synopsis snagged your attention.
It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of August. To me it feels like that fourth of July was just last week! Are there any major changes for you this month? I’m looking forward to one last weekend before my fall classes start up, but I’m also excited that this means my favorite time of year (the last third) is almost here!
Until the next chapter,