Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Salt in the Water (A Lesser Dark #1) in exchange for an honest review.
Sweet. Now that the disclaimer part is over, on to business. Salt in the Water by S. Cushaway and J. Ray is a science fiction novel set on a foreign planet. People there come from multiple different races. Add in the fact that this is a desert world, there is an all controlling syndicate, and alien technology is still an all-powerful looming presence, you get a recipe for a complex and engaging read.
First off, I have to start with the world building. Cushaway and Ray did an amazing job of building their universe. The technology, the different races, the politics. All of it is planned out and give the story a feel that it is happening just around the corner from Earth. I felt like this was a real universe as I read the novel. I cannot even begin to imagine how they kept everything straight for the level of detail they put into creating the world in which this novel happens. This alone to me is reason enough to read the book.
Second, the characters were engaging and believable. Leigh’s struggles, Kaitar’s soul deep fatigue, Neiro’s honorable greed. Cushaway and Ray developed each character into a unique being that felt real. They all had their strengths and their faults – and the two aspects fit together well within each character. Plus, the character development and interactions were well written. Several times I found myself wanting to shake the daylights out of a character or I cheered characters on.
My final like for this book has to be the plot. Just as detailed and thorough as the world building, the plot told an excellent story, moved along at a good clip, and wove together several storylines well. As this is the first book in a series, the plot cuts off leaving me to wonder what will happen next because the story has already gone through a number of twists and turns. I also enjoyed how Cushaway and Ray sprinkled bits of backstory in throughout the book. It never felt overwhelming or like an info dump, but just enough to help keep the current storyline in perspective and keep it moving.
Honestly, I did not have much for dislikes. And what I do have are pretty minor in the overall view of the book. First, there were some instances where an interjected explanation of what something was broke into the flow of the narrative. Most of this was in the beginning of the book. I struggled a little with it because I would be getting into a scene and then there would be this pause to explain something. It would have been nice to see that worked into the narrative a little better. Overall, though, it was not enough to detract much from the book.
The other dislike I had was that there were times I found myself wanting a cheat sheet to keep the different races and racial groupings straight. These different groups were woven well into the story, but it almost felt like I was expected to already know who fit into which race and how the racial groupings fit together. I love that the universe built had such a variety of races, but some kind of appendix with the explanations would have been nice to refer to as I read the book. Maybe the will add one with a special edition version of the book or something like that.
Overall, I have to say this is a wonderful addition to the science fiction genre. It has dark elements, lots of technology, aliens, greed, nobility, and politics. Check it out!