Welcome back to another “Fantasy Review.” This edition is for J. Scott Coatsworth’s Skythane, the first in the Oberon Cycle trilogy.
Slight spoilers follow.
The planet of Oberon is missing half its mass. Some scientists speculate the other side is filled with dark matter—balancing the inhabited hemisphere and making it stable. Most citizens of Oberon don’t even think about it. For them, life continues like normal. The rich live in splendor while the poor are forced to scavenge in the Slander.
Xander began his life in the Slander. Orphaned at an early age, Xander grew up on the streets—abused, neglected, and forgotten. Also against him is his heritage. He is a skythane—a race similar to humans, but with wings and the capacity of flight. The human settlers of Oberon forced the semi-native skythane out of their homes and off their land.
Miraculously rescued off the streets, Xander is given a second chance at life, and a very important mission.
When the planet’s main export—a drug called pith—suddenly dries up, Jameson is sent to investigate. When he lands in Oberon City, he’s suddenly wisked away by Xander, and thrown headfirst into a situation that may kill them both. Xander’s companion Quince tells Jameson that they need to save Oberon, and Titania—the other half of the planet only accessible by gateway. And, of course, he and Xander are the key.
This story is an excellent blend of sci-fi and fantasy. Oberon City is full of technology, hovercars, computer chips installed in a person’s brain. The first half of the novel takes place on Oberon, where technology has a relevant role in daily life. The city is run by two rival powers—the OberCorp in charge of mining the pith, and the Syndicate, in charge of the Slander. Xander and Jameson get stuck in the middle of both the powers as they struggle to get to Titania. Then, when in Titania, the fantasy comes through. Though some technology from Oberon filters through the gateways, Titania is a lot simpler in its culture. It’s ruled completely by the skythane—though by two rival houses, Gaelani and Erriani. The skythane depend on their ancient gods to oversee and protect them. Magical creatures inhabit this world—some friends and some foes. The rich histories of both of the worlds adds a lot of depth to this novel.
The characters are well developed, with clear goals and ambitions. Xander and Jameson start off antagonistic to one another, and you can see the shift in their thinking as they grow closer. I loved the romance between them. They balance each other and fit as a couple.
The skythane people intrigue me. There are several scenes when they fly and Coatsworth does a great job of conveying the feeling of exhilaration. When Jameson learns how to fly, and revels in the feeling of being free, it was very touching.
Though I enjoyed the romance between Xander and Jameson, and they do gradually thaw with their cool treatment of one another, I did feel like it was rushed. Their feelings could have grown more organically. Even Quince “helping” them along by slipping them small dosages of pith—which can act as an aphrodisiac—made me cringe.
This story is pure entertainment. It has action, adventure, intrigue, suspense, and romance. It was a quick read, fast paced, and with a deeply enthralling landscape. Every now and then, it’s nice to read a novel that’s just for fun.
4 out of 5
To find out more about J. Scott Coastworth and his other novels, you can visit his website.
Edited by Mashiara Sedai