Book Review of Andrea K. Host’s “Caszandra” by Otessa Ghadar

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Book Summary: Cassandra Devlin doesn’t know what she’s for. But she knows she’s running out of time. Since Cass was rescued from the abandoned world of Muina, the Aussie teen has proven more than useful to the people of Tare. Expeditions to their home world no longer end in slaughter. The teaching city of Kalasa has been unlocked. After years of searching for answers, they are starting to make progress. But space is tearing itself apart. Ionoth attack in ever-greater numbers. And “the useful stray” has been injured so many times that the Tarens hesitate to use her for fear of losing her.
With one particular Taren now her most important person, Cass is determined to contribute everything she can – and hopes to find some answers of her own. What is the link between Muina and Earth? Why are the reclusive Nurans so interested in ‘rescuing’ her? And what role in the crisis do the inhuman Cruzatch play? Can Cass keep herself together long enough to find out?

Andre Host has done some excellent, deeply creative world-building. And she’s gone even further by populating said-world with interesting, varied and emotionally virile characters. Oh, and the main character, Cass, is just so damn like-able.

A tad rough around the edges, writing-wise– but that’s all more to the charm. This series was one of the most (if not the most) fleshed-out, creative, and inspired/inspiring stories I’ve read this year.
The idea of living creatures creating memories/ghosts/monsters in near space and deep space, and of how these interact, is terrific. Even better is the mysterious “shattering of the spaces” — an event which happened hundreds of years ago, and which led to a multi-world diaspora…a diaspora whose worlds now harbor a great deal of distrust or forgotten history with each other. While, the mystery element is well sustained through the trilogy, it’s really the narrator, Cass, who shines. Cass stumbles unwittingly through a wormhole, and is processed as a “Stray” on the world Tare, then realizes she is something equally odd and mysterious (a touchstone).

However, all of this is made incredibly relatable and refreshingly…honest…because of Cass’ narrative voice. I happen to have a “thing” for first-person writing, so I especially liked the style. But, in a world like Tare, where mental-internet hard-wiring is de rigeur, the direct first-person privacy of a journal made for a good story-telling choice. And, Cass is hilarious, with a funny POV and great dialogue. Her use of cultural references was cute — but never precious — it just underscored her yearning for home. (I can get annoyed by the miss-use or over-use of pop culture references– but here it was spot on.) (One small potential gripe is Cassandra’s slightly-too-easy-going-ness with governmental monitoring of her body/life. But even this is handled in a thoughtful sort of frying pan vs. fire way.)

The entire trilogy was like one fantastic story, told to you by your best friend.

Serious hat-tipping & kudos to Andrea Host!
I love that the author decided to “step out of the boundaries of the marketable” and write this unusual rambling diary form YA space adventure. And then, she self-published it, which is brave.

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