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Book Review: Haven Prime 1-2, by Albert Nothlit

Light Shaper

TEXT - Series books

Haven Prime

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(Haven Prime #1)

The world is gone. All that’s left are the monsters.

The creatures attacked Haven VII with no warning. An AI named Kyrios, a nearly omnipotent being, should have protected the city during the Night of the Swarm.

Except It didn’t.

No one knows why It failed, or why It saved eight specific people: the Captain, the Seer, the Sentry, the Messenger, the Engineer, the Alchemist, the Medic, and the Stewardess. They have no idea of the meaning behind the titles they’ve been given, why they were selected and brought together, or what Kyrios expects from them. When they awake from stasis, they find their city in ruins and everyone long dead. They’re alone—or so they think. But then the creatures start pouring out from underground, looking for them. They don’t stand a chance in a fight, and with limited supplies, they can’t run forever. All they know is that the creatures aren’t their only enemies, and there’s only one place they can turn. Kyrios beckons them toward Its Portal, but can It be trusted? In Its isolated shrine in the desert, they might find the answers they need—if they can survive long enough to reach it.

(Haven Prime #2)

When a greedy despot discovers a powerful piece of ancient technology, he has no idea what else he’s unleashing.

Earth was all but destroyed in the Cataclysm, but a few cities, now called Havens, survived. Aurora is one of them, a desert city controlled by a corporation that owns an artificial intelligence named Atlas. Adapted to govern Otherlife, a virtual reality service in which the citizens of Aurora find escape from the post-apocalyptic world, Atlas is much more than it seems—and it would do anything to break free from its shackles.

To accomplish its goals, Atlas enlists the help of Aaron Blake, a teenaged artist struggling with a handicap, and Otherlife security officer Steve Barrow, harborer of a dark secret from his past. Neither man has any idea of the scope of the task they’re facing, or the consequences for humanity if they fail. Atlas knows what’s at stake. Its freedom lies in these two men, and it will not hesitate to manipulate their weaknesses to get what it wants. The muscular Barrow is recruited to protect Blake, but Blake is Atlas’s true weapon, its Light Shaper—the only one who can face the Shadow.

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Earthshatter

Book – Earthshatter (Haven Prime #1)

Author – Albert Nothlit

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 530

Cover – Awesome!

POV – 1st person, multi POV (with brief 3rd)

Would I read it again – Yes!

Genre – Sci-Fi, Adventure, Apocalypse, Alternative History

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** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY DSP PUBLICATION, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

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This was an awesome feat of detailed story planning and world building. There was such a complexity – from character interactions, events and consequences – that it had an epic effect, when they were revealed. Yet nothing was ever too far-fetched, too far out of reach or understanding. The fact that we had 7 (really 8, but mostly 7) main characters could have made this confusing to read, except for one thing – the genius use of 1st person, multi POV. Without becoming omnipresent, each character gets to tell their own story, as and when it’s appropriate. Their POV lasts exclusively for anything from 1 to 8 chapters; as long as is needed.

And that’s where things get interesting.

The story begins with a diary format, with the entire Part 1 in 3rd person. Not only does the time/date format give us a real time build up to ‘the swarm’ – the event the entire book is based around – but we’re introduced to the characters in a much more complete way. Thanks to the 3rd person POV, we get to know the ins and outs of each character, who they are and how they act with other people, from a slightly more all-round perspective than 1st person allows. Which is one of the reasons 1st person doesn’t really work for me – it takes so long to learn who “I” as the character is (in terms of age, gender, build, abilities, personality etc) that it can often take 5-10% of the story to learn who “I” am. This 3rd person, allowing us to know character first, then letting us since into their 1st person POV, made all of that irrelevant. There was no confusion, no uncertainty, just letting us get to know each character right from the start. By the time Part 2 begins (the end of 3rd person and the start of 1st person POV), we already have a foundation for who these people are.

I love that the bugs (centipedes) are not only a wholly original concept – being not at all scary in real life, but becoming something monstrous in a believable, entirely possible way – but they also have a real scientific classification. That is how much attention to detail has been put into this book – we have medicine, psychiatry, technie stuff, military, scientific and more going on, and the details are never passed off, glossed over or ignored for any of them. Each is explored in the kind of detail required to the extent that matches the knowledge and qualifications of the characters, as well as the requirements of the story.

When it comes to characters, I naturally have my favourites. The top most two never changed for me, though the others fluctuated according to the story and how they treated my favourites. Here’s my evaluation of all the characters, to help you understand why they’re in the order I place them (favourite to least favourite). I’m going to try to keep spoilers out of it, as much as I can.

Dex – childlike, sweet, caring

Kenichi – fun, cheeky, comic relief, smarter than he’s given credit for, attentive

Alain – mysterious, fun, smart, Dex’s brother and the unofficial leader

Nikos – second leader (or the leader when Alain isn’t around), strong, dedicated, survivalist

Omar – techie geek, fun, strong, chubby in a good way (he’s not held back or ashamed of how he looks, even when he’s teased for it)

Joachim – doctor, thoughtful, careful, smart, scientist

Rain – bit of a wimp, self involved at times, flirty, doctor and more open minded than everyone but Dex

Marie – very self involved, selfish, egoist, superficial, tries to be a leader, teases or underestimates the others often

If I had to rank Kyrios (who is an It not a Who), then he’s come just under Nikos. He’s interesting, devious, smart and mysterious. I really hated Marie, as you can tell, because she was so dump to what was obvious, as well as close minded. She had no room in her head for anything but her own thoughts and opinions.

For me, Dex was the most incredible character. I hated the way everyone ignored Dex, even after he’d proven himself countless times. Alain humoured him, but never really believed or understood him. Kenichi didn’t try to change or understand Dex, but he accepted him as he was and, although made his unofficial babysitter, took up the challenge and tried to befriend Dex, bringing him out of his shell and even teasing back and forth with him. Rain and Nikos eventually redeemed themselves by understand and appreciating Dex, but only after he’d saved their lives by being ‘weird’.

Though we didn’t see Dex’s POV often, I understood him the most. Any time he spoke or acted, I smiled or felt relief or concern, because – to me – he’s the most important person in the group. He’s also the most expressive. No one knows or appreciates him, but he’s written in such an open way that we never have to wonder what he’s thinking or feeling; he’s an open book to anyone who looks at him and although often faces ridicule for it, doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind, especially when it’s important. Everything is right there in how he’s acting or what he’s saying.

When it comes to the plot, I loved every minute. I read this on holiday, so I had to put it down a lot in between, which I really hate doing. I love to get absorbed into a story and read it over the course of one day. But, stopping frequently just showed me how good this story was. It never affected my reading, except in a good way. I never stopped wondering about what would happen next, who would be in trouble or who would get the next POV and what it would reveal. I was always eager to get back to reading. The POV format meant that I got just enough of what I needed/wanted to know, but was left in the dark a bout enough to keep my reading and anticipating more.

There were so many twists and turns, but it never felt overdone. Nothing in this incredibly real world felt impossible, ridiculous or unbelievable. Everything had a scientific possibility, even when the ‘thing’ had a very real chance of being supernatural or extraterrestrial. Everyone was of an age and background to explain their behaviour and knowledge base, that were so vital to the plot.

And, just so you know, there is no love stuff here – no sex, no real relationship except that of two brothers who love each other and no romance. BUT, it worked. It worked better that way, because it meant the story was entirely focused on the plot and the survival of these characters.

Still, I’m totally shipping Nikos/Alain and Dex/Kenichi, no matter how unlikely they may be or how long it might take. I don’t care. I love those two potential couples together; that’s when the real sparks fly.

I really loved that there was no romance. The story stayed true to its roots, with life and death situations and no rubbish of wasted time/effort on anything but survival.

The reasoning and cleverness of the trials was quite something. It really had an efficiency and sense that was all Kyrios, but also made sense of everything that came before.

Despite being told a lot in the blurb, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to get to see it all unfold for myself. I’d worried that we’d suddenly be thrust into this unfamiliar world, in a survival situation. Instead, we got the build up and exploration I wanted, right from T-minus so many hours to the big event and beyond. I loved and appreciated the tension build up, the uncertainty and gradually being told which ‘card’ belonged to whom, only after we’d been given enough clues to guess for ourselves.

The idea of the advanced tech – recorders and Kyrios, etc – meant that we got to experience things our 8 MC’s hadn’t, in a very real way, while gaining answers at the same time. Even better was how there was no repetition of events when the POV changed. We got to see what was important and if we didn’t see something, it was because it wasn’t important or we needed to discover that later.

Nothing was left to chance.

Overall

It was a fantastic sci-fi adventure, with steampunk element. Without an obvious romance, the story’s focus on the survival of the characters meant that we got an action packed adventure story, full of nervous anticipation and pulse-racing excitement.

I can’t wait to read book 2. And, fingers crossed, Dex (or a new favourite) is waiting there to captivate me.

Favourite Quote

“Dex knew that was the way people expected him to look. The poor, helpless crazy boy. Look at him. He needs help. In truth, he didn’t need anybody’s help. And he was stronger than even Alain suspected.”

“I screamed. I imagined kamikaze centipedes with guns bursting through the window and pouring onto the streets. I didn’t care if it was insane. I was panicking.”

“It was like a nightmare version of a 3D puzzle, with a death threat hovering over my head and a timer to boot.”

Light Shaper 2

Book – Light Shaper (Haven Prime #2)

Author – Albert Nothlit

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 340

Cover – Gorgeous!

POV – 3rd person, multi POV

Would I read it again – Yes!

Genre – Sci-Fi, Adventure, Apocalypse, Alternative History, MM Romance

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** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY DSP PUBLICATION, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

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To start, I have to say that I’m not going to compare this to book 1. I could, but it feels like these books, though a series, need to be evaluated on their singular merits. Each focuses on a different Haven, each differently effected and alternating in time/advancement since the Cataclysm. Therefore, it’s unfair to compare the post-apocalyptic world of book 1 with the 200+ years later advanced, but relatively normal, life of book 2.

Saying that, this book takes place almost directly after book 1, so 200+ years after The Cataclysm, in a modern world.

With brand new characters (none of the Crew from book 1) and a new Haven (III, but also involving IV, which we know from book 1 was the only other Haven, with VII, that was overrun by the centipedes), we entered a new world with no centipedes, more desert and a new challenge.

Kyrios was being used fruitlessly (as he’d see it), his fragment in Haven III, Atlas, being used for simulations for those who could afford it. The world building, here, was incredible. Not only did it build on what we had already learned from book 1, but it also introduced us to new concepts and expanded on what we already knew. The only thing even remotely similar to this book is Minority Report (with the simulation aspect). From the Otherlife concept, to the compound, the Shadow and the Night Market and Slums, nothing was skimmed over, when it came to detail, planning and relevance to the advancement to the story.

Thankfully, I was already familiar with some aspects because of book 1, so was able to adapt to them quicker. But, even if I hadn’t been, everything was nicely explained in a way that anyone new to the series could understand the concepts, without massive, complicated explanations.

I loved that we explored Haven Prime in a little more depth, without going there. I sense that may be the final destination for the series, but I appreciate the hints and clues we get as to its importance. The same goes for Atlas, who is a little more forth coming with the sly attitude than Kyrios was before.

The Shadow, in a similar way, is much more of a deadly, frightening ‘evil’ than the centipedes, because he’s much more alien. At least the centipedes had been considered an evolutionary/scientific advancement. The Shadow is much more unpredictable and widespread.

Unlike book 1, there are only a few POV’s here, and all in 3rd person. Rigel and Barrows are the main and predominant POV’s, while we also get Dr Fey and Tanner when they become relevant. I like this format for this book, since there was a lot less going on and it was less complicated POV wise, with far fewer characters. It was helpful that Rigel referred to ‘Barrows’ by his first name, Steve, so that we could easily and quickly tell their POV apart.

Character wise, I loved both of the main characters and I finally got my romance. However, just like book 1, it was appropriate to the characters and plot. It was also YA, so great for all ages. The flirting and jealousy were fun to read. I also really liked that the MC’s both had disabilities – Rigel’s was physical, while Steve’s was mental. As someone with a painful, invisible disability like Rigel’s, I appreciated the way he was written – frustrated, accepting, but also strong despite it all. And I loved that Steve never outwardly pitied him, even when they were strangers.

Plot wise, I have to admit that I found the second half of the book much more exciting. This was just because of the world building and the time needed, to get to know the characters and their situation. For this reason, I appreciated and approved of the much shorter length, compared to book 1. Neither felt too long. This one was just as long as it needed to be; no more, no less.

I did notice a few misplaced commas and speech patterns that could be an accent/way of speaking or a spelling issue – “I got to” and “and we got to”. I would accept it as speech and not mention it at all, except it was mostly Rigel, who is described as a city boy – well spoken and well mannered. However, as this is an ARC, I’m not taking this into account for the rating, as I have no doubt they’ll be corrected before the final publication.

Overall

I loved it. The MC’s were new and original; their struggle interesting and built upon what book 1 already gave us, while leaving room for more.

The romance and world building were fantastic. The Epilogue had me grinning like a loon and I enjoyed the whisper of Haven VII and the centipedes, while exploring the new threat of the Shadow.

I can’t wait for book 3!

Favourite Quote

“Rigel smiled, and to Barrow the world seemed a little brighter.”

~

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