Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon
Review: Kenyon is a veteran science fiction author but, since this is my first time reading her work, I won’t be commenting on any of her previous writing. I will start by saying that Bright of the Sky is an intellegent, finely crafted, meaty read that fans of science fiction, and even more than a few fantasy fans, will enjoy. It should also be noted that this is the first book in a series (The Rose and the Entire) and while it mostly well by itself it also leaves much unanswered. The plot centers around former star pilot Titus Quinn who finds himself grounded after a routine trip through a black hole caused the destruction of his ship. He claims, and is believed by noone, that he and his wife (Johanna) daughter (Sydney) were sent to another world where they spent years together; despite having been gone from the real world for considerably less time. Fired by his employers for his outrageous claims he lives alone struggling with his fading memory and his guilt over his still missing family. Everything changes when the company he used to work for discovers that the world he claims to have visited is in fact real. I won’t discuss too many plot details beyond that as too much more risks spoilers.
The main action of the novel focus on the political, personal and economic goals of various parties both in our universe and in the Entire; the universe that exists parallel to our own. The bulk of the narrative deals with Titus’ juggling act of managing his own personal goal (rescue his wife and daughter no matter the cost) with the business designs of his employers (secure a means of a safe transit route through the entire) while at the same time reclaiming his lost memories of his previous stay in the Entire and navigating the rather sticky political mire of this new world. At the same time we have another narrative thread detailing the experiences of his daughter who is now living amongst a group of sentient horse/bull quadraped creatures (the Inyx), another thread back home on Earth discussing Titus’ trip from his employer’s perspective, and late in the novel another narrative dealing with political machinations of the human like ruler of the Chalin who seeks to subvert the arrogant and technologically advanced Bright Lords (the Tarig). If that sounds like a lot to manage then you are absolutely right but Kenyon, despite the shifting narrative, does a masterful job juggling the various narrators and making each interesting and insightful in their own right. Titus isn’t the most likeable of characters but his zelous drive to reclaim his family makes him grow on you and his guilt over his own actions in the past has a palpable weight that influences the reader and, for better or for ill (his reaction to Small Girl comes to mind), serves as a driving force behind his own actions. Sydney (Titus’ daughter) and the Inyx (the strange creatures she lives with) provide some of my favorite interactions in the book and are some the only human/alien interaction we see and includes some of the best hints about what is to come in future volumes of the series.
The book isn’t prone to fast-paced action but Kenyon manages to generate interest via the interactions between characters and societies that excell in keeping the readers interest. Her characters, while not wholly original (Titus reminds me in many ways of Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant), are fleshed out and really come alive in their dealings with one another (an excellent example being the relationship between Titus and his sister-in-law). In the end this was a worthwhile read and is highly recommended to fans of alternate world stories from either side of the sci-fi/fantasy fence.
Final Grade: B+