The first Tangled Axon novel
By Jacqueline Koyanagi
Available now from Masque Books (Prime Books)
I was excited about ASCENSION when everyone started talking about it on Tumblr. If there's one thing blogging has taught me, it's that there is a demand for stories with diverse characters. Along comes a science fiction tale with characters of varied ethnicity and sexualities, plus the protagonist has a debilitating chronic illness. Unfortunately, you can't build a story on diversity alone.
ASCENSION suffers from a serious lack of plot, first of all. There is a major, devastating event at the beginning and a flurry of activity at the end. Between that, not much happens. And the ending isn't enough to save it. The reveals about the true nature of the Tangled Axon were things I'd figured out long before, much like main character Alana's older sister Nova.
The sororal relationship between Alana and Nova was my favorite part of the book. They have very different outlooks and goals in life, which leads to quite a bit of friction. At the same time, they love each other unquestionably and do quite a bit to keep the other safe. The other relationships in the novel didn't move me as much. Most of the Tangled Axon crew are underwritten and the romance is uneven. Alana thinks Captain Tev is hot as soon as she sees her after she stows aboard. She starts thinking about how she's falling in love before they have any real personal conversations, which just didn't work for me. It was mostly Alana pining instead of real interaction, and I need interaction in my love stories.
Good worldbuilding could've saved ASCENSION. But honestly, I couldn't tell you much about this spacefaring future. There's a medical company, Transliminal, that's quite powerful, which is plausible. Nova is a sort of religious witch, although I never fully understood how her powers worked. Alana is an engineer in space for the first time, and while she's certainly fascinated by the Tangled Axon, we never really get scenes of her repairing or otherwise working on the ship. How does space travel work in this universe? Who knows.
It felt like ASCENSION wanted to be a romance novel above all else. But the romance style didn't work for me, and that left the science fiction and action-adventure elements too thin on the ground. ASCENSION is more for people who like their science fiction heavy on the philosophy. I'm sure there is an audience for this book, but sadly I am not it. I do, however, applaud Jaqueline Koyanagi for developing a diverse future. That is a good start.