Lilith Saintcrow’s explosive novel is a modern sci-fi and post-apocalyptic thriller about a young woman named Svinga who is a prisoner in the near future. After the death of a fellow Rifter, “Svin” is pressured into crossing through a Rift to find answers, or spend the rest of her life in prison. Svin reluctantly complies and journeys into a danger, unknown territory with a small group of other soldiers. What follows is a descent into chaos within an unfamiliar world where stepping forward seems to only put the group ten steps back as the path behind them literally changes as they go.
The strongest element of the novel is the way in which setting is incorporated in the novel with brilliant world-building. From the prison to outside facilities and into the Rift itself, there are some fantastic descriptions and great writing to truly encapsulate the growing confusion and terror at being thrown into a dangerous situation where there appears to be no way out.
Unfortunately what felt flat for me were the characters themselves. While our female protagonist Svin began as an independent young woman who could easily fight back against the others, her character wasn’t well developed. My interest in her weakened over the course of the novel and by the end, there was minimal connection felt towards her at all. Although backstory and intrigue were present, Svin’s personality was lacking, and therefore it was difficult to feel sympathy or fear for her character’s plot.
There also seemed to be a numerous amount of side characters and it appeared as if every other chapter introduced a new perspective. While this was initially tiresome and contributed to not understanding our protagonist well, the switch in narratives grew quickly interesting and some were satisfyingly emotional and provided further insight into the world Lilith Saintcrow has brilliantly created. Despite this, there was little development for many of these characters and very few of them would interact with one another which meant very few relationships were created.
Even though the plot started off as a gritty adventure-thriller of sorts with Svin being offered her freedom in exchange for undertaking a dangerous mission, it very quickly turns into a darker and more chaotic journey. Some scenes showed terrifying dangers which will more than likely keep any read on their toes. However, the underdevelopment of some of the characters meant the stakes were not as thrilling or intense as I wanted them to be.
Overall, Cormorant Run reads more as the first instalment to a lengthy series, as opposed to a novel that conclusively ties up every thread introduced. Though the writing style and world-building are very good, they fail to compensate for the lack of a conclusive story and underdevelopment of major characters.
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Cormorant Run by Lilith Saintcrow | Goodreads | Out 13/06/17
It could have been aliens, it could have been a trans-dimensional rift, nobody knows for sure. What’s known is that there was an Event, the Rifts opened up, and everyone caught inside died. Since the Event certain people have gone into the drift… and come back, bearing priceless technology that’s almost magical in its advancement. When Ashe — the best Rifter of her generation — dies, the authorities offer her student, Svinga, a choice: go in and bring out the thing that killed her, or rot in jail. But Svin, of course, has other plans… How far would you go and what would you risk to win the ultimate prize?