- Ostakia by Angelica Primm
Ostakia by Angelica Primm
Arlan Klath, the son of the Trademaster of Ostakis, bears in his body the secret that the pious people of his planet want to hide. Born Cursed and inherently sinful, Arlan lives without legal rights or property. It enrages Thyenn Sharr Arlan’s father defiantly refuses to submit his son to a cruel act to "redeem” Arlan’s soul. The stakes ratchet when Arlan and Kaj form a relationship Thyenn Sharr considers ample justification to usurp the Trademaster position through the legal power of his Church.
Can Kaj navigate the treacherous currents of Ostakian politics and religion to save these human descendants of Earth? And must he chose between Arlan or his mission to do so?
This was an interesting read for me. It's my first book by Angelica Primm and it won't be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed Ostakis and hope that the inclusion of Human Planets Collective on the cover is the promise of more books to come, even if they focus on new planets and different characters. I'd certainly be willing to read more within this world.
This is, firstly, a novel about political intrigue, with a dash of romance, and a struggle against a rising religious power that threatens to overshadow all decent humanity if not contained quickly. Through the dual POV of both main characters – Arlan, the Cursed; and Kaj, the human representative – we see this new world with fresh and familiar eyes at once. I loved that we got to see some events through both sets of eyes, first through Arlan's and then through Kaj's so that we understood the delicate political and often dangerous nuances of language and political understanding. What slips carelessly from Kaj's lips causes shock and surprise for the Ostakians; while what the Ostakians accept so readily is sometimes abhorrent and inconceivable to Kaj. This was really well handled and introduced the idea that Kaj's mission was much more complex than first thought, while offering something for us readers to rally towards. I was fully committed to the Cursed and their plight, to helping them rise from oppression, long before it even became a plot point in the book.
I'll admit, I had a tough time getting started. The style of writing, and the phrases that are by rights original to the people of Ostakis and this new Earth presented to us, were all unusual to me. The writing is somewhat formal in places, sometimes drifting from past tense to present, but maintaining the style throughout. The choice of words was sometimes odd, to me, but sometimes felt as though it was remaining true to the character's knowledge of language rather than the author deliberately dipping into purple prose or making unconventional phrasing choices. It took me about 20% of the book to really feel comfortable with the style and the phrasing, to grasp what it was doing and to feel familiar around the choices made. Once I did, it flowed really well.
When it comes to characters, I wasn't so sure about Kaj to begin with. He seemed uncomfortable around the Ostakians and inept for the political dance he had entered into. But as time went on, his authority settled and he became more comfortable in his new role, which was great to see. I loved Arlan immediately. He was sweet and feisty, and I rooted for him the whole way through. Pib was another light in the dark; he was sweet and a great friend to Arlan, making sacrifices but finally asserting himself when it came time. I loved their friendship with each other as much as I loved the not-so-subtle chemistry between Kaj and Arlan. From the first minute they met, the attraction was real and noticeable, but I liked that it wasn't insta-love, either. It blossomed nicely throughout the novel.
The world building was also really well done. I liked that we weren't overwhelmed by info dumps of what Ostakis was, how it functioned and all that it entailed, right at the start. For a while, I wasn't entirely sure what the world was like and what those like Arlan were – if they were shifters or humans – but things became clear as it went on and it proved to be a clever bit of mystery that kept me wondering and reading, intrigued to find out more. When the truth of the Unspoken and the Cursed was finally revealed, I found it all the more interesting because of the little hints along the way.
The story deals sympathetically with the cultural themes of women in power, how intersex people are treated, politics and religion, as well the treatment of aboriginal people by invaders. All subjects are relevant to our world, today, but they were also well explored in the world of Ostakis, showing us as the story developed how this world worked and how it had come to the brink of survival. The interlink between the aboriginals and men like Arlan, creating the Unspoken and the Cursed, was a clever piece of plotting and a great mirror to the prejudices of our own world.
I was also surprised by the MPREG storyline, as there was no mention of that in the blurb or in the advertisements I've seen. While I love a good MPREG, I think the author is missing a trick by not advertising it as such; it's a growing market and I'm sure many more people would love to know that there's a sci-fi MPREG out there, with a true intersex character and a storyline that isn't all heat and sex, but is clever and original, while portraying a beautiful romance.
“I shall love this man to death and beyond for uttering that one sentence.”