Format: E-Galley, 490 pages
Release Date: August 5, 2019
Publisher: Ink Sigil Press
Genre: Science Fiction
Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.
Avery leaps at the chance to leave behind everything she’s ever known. Wearing a Vardeshi uniform, adapting to their culture, following their orders, she’s as close to being one of them as she’ll ever be. But there’s more to interstellar diplomacy than knowing the right words to say. And shedding her identity turns out to be harder than she expected. When her ship, its crew, and the fragile human-Vardeshi alliance are threatened, Avery’s humanity—the very thing putting her at risk—just might be the one thing that can save her.
Flash forward 25 years where we find protagonist Avery Alcott is a graduate student at NYU's linguistic program. Her mentor, Dr. Sawyer, was one of those who was allowed to meet with the aliens. He also created a program called TrueFluent which was hugely successful. He has spent years trying to break down the Vardeshi language so that if, or when they return, he would be ready for them. Avery spends a year learning and breaking apart the Vardeshi language thanks to Dr. Sawyer's program.
Dr. Sawyer believed that Avery would be the ideal candidate for the exchange because she has humility, kindness, and patience to deal with any situation she finds herself in. Then the call comes in. The Vardeshi will allow a cultural exchange program for 100 earthlings to live among them for a year. Avery is one of those chosen. In fact, the Vardeshi crew of the Pinion chose Avery to travel to the Vardeshi home planet. To make matters even more interesting, Avery is also chosen to become a member of the crew and wear the same uniform they do.
Avery is given the title of novi, the lowest rank in the hierarchy of the Vardeshi Stellar Fleet. She finds that she has a friend in Zey Takheri who is also a novi and her superior. It's menial server role, but it gives Avery a change to better understand the people she is going to spent a year with. As Avery learns more about the crew of the Pinion, she finds that there's both curiosity about her, as well as resentment that someone thinks that they can really learn the Vardeshi language good enough to gain support for an Earth/Vardeshi alliance.
There is a feeling of something not quite right onboard this ship, and it's going to be a long trip if Avery can actually survive the machinations of people who have no desire to see an alliance with Earth. As others have said, the first part of this story is rather dull since nothing much happens. There is Avery's curiousness, as well as her reservation at not knowing enough to get by. However, it's a pretty good story overall, but with not a whole lot of action. Sure, there's a bit of suspense and mystery, but the ending is the real story.
The sequel, Bright Shards, is set to be released on August 1st of this year. I will definitely continue just to see where Avery goes from here after all that has happened to her.