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Astra is a fantastic character; strong and willing to do what is needed to get back home. A lot of things happen on her journey through this monster world and I have found myself getting quite attached to her. Angelika's writing is so captivating and descriptive. It's really made for an entertaining read! Also, the creatures are terrifying.  

I'm really looking forward to seeing what else is in store for Astra. If you love dark fantasy tale, I would recommend giving this a try. 

Book Blogger of Fantasy by Sofia

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Pernicious-True Evil YA novel - debut by Angelika Koch

 

When you read YA fiction long enough, certain motives tend to help form your life, or at least your reading experience. Every heroine is an unhappy clumsy beauty, and every hero is a misunderstood guy who is devoted to hiding his feelings (and what for?).

Inevitable moments include, when they're all courting the heroine, and when she is embarrassed to the bone and boundlessly confused. When she chooses the worst type of sympathy—the worst in a sense that he is treating her the worst, because physically he has to be perfect— and I think the rest goes without saying. 

I have news for you, a YA novel could be written without these clichés. At some point, they probably were original, but no one said that the same thing has to rehash. When they say that everything depends on the approach, they lie - a sparkling vampire sucks no matter how you describe it, in verse, prose, upside down or sideways. Come up with something of your own, like Angelika Koch did. 

What makes this novel stand out, is the original display of emotions and the process of survival.

Feelings of our heroine are not a one-dimensional tangle of confusion. Thoughts do not stumble from one shallow claim to another - they are rather intertwined with memories of her mother, anxiety for her father, fear for herself and her companions. This is what I am most surprised of, that someone so young in her debut immediately hits in the middle of the target and really accurately describes the process of thinking. This is my first best moment in the book - when Astra is sitting on a swing in front of her aunt's house and thinking.

My second best moment would be when Astra is already found in another world. Vojin has defended her in the first of many attacks, but she only sees the monster and fears him. To soothe her, he takes on human form, thus becoming vulnerable, and offers her a self-made knife.

The third moment - when the monster pet of Alek and Sagan gets on her side. Elde had just met her but is more than ready to defend her from anything her first two human beings can stage. By then she had long since lost Vojin and Elde gives her a much-needed comfort and intimacy.

And the final fourth twist (here I feel like youtube clip with elected scenes from favorite series) - when Sagan stands on her side. He and Alek are inseparable, you will see when you read the book, but Sagan has the ability to know if someone is telling the truth, and when Alek does something extremely disgusting (I will not tell you what, spoiler alert) and lies about it, and Astra is afraid that everyone will be against her, except Elde - Sagan turns out to be the man. Definitely one of the better scenes. It does not matter how much of a friend you are with someone - evil is evil and should not be hidden, nor supported.

At first, I wondered how Astra traveled for weeks with Vojin and learned nothing. Well, they walked a lot and all their energy went at it, and Vojin is a powerful besnik, so she did not need to learn that many things when she was with him. That is why Alek and Sagan, two human creatures, are full of various ways to survive. Their methods are not at all like what one besnik like Vojin can provide. For example, Vojin brought fruit, and planted seeds that would later also have some benefits. Sagan and Alek disturb the balance of life wherever they turn. They call it survival, arguing that otherwise it is not possible. The 'Fruit' that they bring her has heart and eyes, and living creatures that float inside. But they prefer to hunt an animal and eat meat.

Astra is in a gray area in terms of harming others for meat - in principle, she is against it, but on the other hand, it is not so difficult to persuade her otherwise. Alek usually has a very good and aggressive reasons. Astra hates what their survival does to the living world, but she still puts herself first, which leads to new dilemmas and questions. 

Just as the world in which she finds herself in, is not what it seems, thus motives in the novel are not so simple as well. Angelika encourages us to rethink entrenched truth, starting with whether and how bad buying a steak at the store is (maybe we have not killed by ourselves and looked into the eyes of the dying animals, but we paid a company that does this for us). And can the fact of putting a human being among physical monsters also put them on higher moral ground? Sagan, unfortunately, ended as a hybrid (half man - half-demon), while Alek is still pure human, straight and everything, and yet his actions are at least questionable and repulsive. 

Now, I know I said Astra learned nothing from Vojin, but it's not the most accurate thing to claim. He taught her to think on her own and trust no one. He taught her that assistance can be provided without asking for anything in return. Although he told her not to trust him especially, she could not help herself but to love him as a friend. Compared with Alek and Sagan, Vojin is an oasis of peace, strength and friendship. 

Astra says that we are not all evil. We may not know any better, for now.

I can not wait to read the second part, to see what Vojin has to say on Astra’s dilemmas and how they were resolved. It seems to me that the journey is not just of the physical nature and that we all are going to change till the end.