Book Review: Watership by Jenna Whittaker

Author’s Note: In addition to the non-fiction and professionally published fiction that I have reviewed on this blog, I am occasionally blogging reviews of independently published Science Fiction and Fantasy authors, as I hope to someday join their ranks! 

WatershipWatership by Jenna Whittaker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was an enigma. It was written with some beautiful language. Especially at the beginning, it read more like poetry than prose, and I think that is a good way to approach this book to get the most out of it: Read it for the imagery and the pictures it paints in your mind of the living, elemental watership, traveling through space to save humanity by feeding first off nebulas, and then life forces and energies of living beings. This material also might make an excellent graphic novel if the author is an artist or can find a collaborator.

As a straight SF or fantasy novel, however, it leaves a bit to be desired, especially in characterization. This book had a lot of action and a serviceable plot that makes sense as long as the reader is willing to accept the indistinguishable-from-magic technology of the advanced race of aeromancers. The sequence of events was also rather confusing at the beginning as the collection was described. I wasn’t sure I knew what was happening for the first several chapters–who was being collected, by whom, why, and how–but once the ship took off I realized I had enough understanding to keep reading without further confusion.

Desu is the most well-realized character, and I was intrigued to have the novel told from her alien perspective. Desu’s relationships with Kira and Iyarid have a lot of potential but this potential is barely realized. Iyarid in particular seems to have been brought to life and then left hanging. For Kira, the quick-aging human child is almost a trope at this point, and not much was done with this aspect either. Charn was too much of a cardboard villain. Perhaps there should have been more deliberate ambiguity about the fate of the old homeworld, because it didn’t make sense that Charn would be purposely driving them all to their doom for no reason. She didn’t come across as mad enough for that, and even if she had, that wouldn’t have been particularly interesting. Why did she change the coordinates? How did characters such as Desu and Kira come to believe that she was wrong? And since the core was really hungry for life energy, why didn’t they feed Charn and her minions to the core after defeating them rather than killing them by ejecting them out into space?

I nonetheless liked the hopeful ending of this story. I would have liked to see the new world with as much detail as the dying earth. This would also have given the author more opportunity reveal characters by their reactions. In general I think this book was too brief to do justice to its material. Brevity made it a quick read, but I prefer meatier books and deeper characters.

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