Stark Holborn, Ten Low
Stark Holborn, Ten Low, Titan, 2022.
Ten Low borrows from the western genre but this very entertaining scifi novel also has a twist of its own that sets it apart.
Ten Low escaped jail and now survives on a desertic moon, determined to save as many lives as possible to compensate for all the lives she took during the war. One day, she saves a child. But it's no ordinary child: Gabriela Ortiz is in fact genetically engineered to be the perfect soldier. Decided to protect her, Ten is going to face many foes and uncover some of the secrets of the moon.
Space western not exactly being my thing, I was a bit wary of all the tropes. And they sure are here which will be a delight for fans of space westerns! Nonetheless, Ten Low was such a vivid character that I was absolutely happy to follow her along. I've particularly enjoyed how the redemption she seeks has become an obsession and how she makes choices which aren't choices anymore so much she's consumed with her tally of death and lives saved while hiding and fleeing.
Among the secondary characters, I've also particularly enjoyed Falco, a fearless outlaw who also has a respectable front when needed. Her loyalty and the loyalty she inspires were traits that made her real, beyond the stereotypes.
What I've enjoyed the most though were the ifs. Something weird is happening on this moon and Ten can feel it. A presence she cannot explain and neither can anyone else. This presence terrorises people, creating some really edge-of-the-seat scenes, but they're much more than that. What they are, what they incarnate, beautifully weaves with Ten's mission and the redemption she seeks.
But, of course, if you're in for action, the novel also has plenty of that, including a saloon attack, various chases, fights, flights, and, of course, betrayals and villains.
The pace is fast and will keep you entertained. The last third of the novel though will sometimes slow down as Ten finds some answers and tries to find her own way. Holborn writes a great prose that describes very effectively the action but also delves subtly in the psyche of her main character.
Ten Low will be the perfect read to anyone in need of escapism but who also wants characters and a world that have more to offer than just clichés. It's obvious that Holborn had a lot of fun playing with all the western tropes and she effortlessly carries you in her story.
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I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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