by Jane Lindskold
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Review by Sam Lubell
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765337108
Date: 27 May 2014 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold is a science fiction/fantasy hybrid -- science fiction that reads like fantasy. It is a pleasant adventure story with an interesting science fiction background and a legitimate reason for the lack of technology on Artemis.
The book opens with Adara the Huntress and her telepathically linked (and adapted) puma, Sand Shadow, observing a falling star that turns out to be Griffin Dane's crashed shuttle. The pair rescue Griffin, but a landslide covers the shuttle and all of Griffin's equipment.
They call him seegnur, thinking him one of the Imperials who created Artemis as a secret pleasure planet for the well-connected super-rich. But he reveals that the reason seegnurs had stopped coming to Artemis was a terrible war that destroyed the empire. This war began when an unknown entity killed the two most important families in the empire, gathered on Artemis for a wedding, using nanobots designed to destroy technology. These nanobots, and the original design of Artemis as a pleasure planet, keep the planet at a low level of technology.
Griffin, a would-be historian, tracked down the location of Artemis in secret, so no one knows his location. His efforts to locate a way of returning to civilization becomes the driving force of the plot. Bruin, Adara's teacher, suggests that Griffin and his new friends visit the Old One Who Is Young who may be able to help. Before they can go, Adara's village is attacked by a giant spider-like machine. Griffin rescues Terrell the Factotum, a guide for travelers, who, grateful (and in love with Adara), joins the expedition. But while journeying they meet a group of travelers who insist that the Old One was breeding and experimenting with adapted humans, forcing some to bear children and taking them from their parents. This presents the book's moral dilemma, whether Griffin and friends will try to uncover and stop the Old One's plans or instead work with him to find a way to help Griffin.
Adara is an interesting character who has cats' eyes allowing her to see in the dark and the ability to turn her hands into claws. Griffin starts out a bit na´ve and focused on escaping Artemis so he can "flaunt his discovery before an awed universe". However, his growing romantic interest in Adara helps humanize him. Also, the author is careful to avoid the traditional love triangle or romantic rivalry between two male characters with romantic feelings towards the same woman. Terrell feels indebted to Griffin for saving his life and comes to respect him as a friend. Even the Old One is not the stereotypical Fu Manchu style villain but throws himself into helping Griffin, or at least using Griffin to understand more about the Imperials' technology.
At the end of each chapter is a brief Interlude, fragments of stream of consciousness or lines of poems that appear to be something mechanical waking up and making contact with something unknown. By the end of the book this makes sense, but is mysterious for most of it.
This is the first book in a series so not everything is answered, although enough is resolved that the reader feels there is an ending rather than a cliffhanger. Although there is a mention of nanotechnology, the book itself is traditional science fantasy that would fit right in with the works of Andre Norton or Marion Zimmer Bradley. It is a pleasant adventure with nothing groundbreaking or innovative, but an entertaining plot, friendly characters, and just enough of a moral dilemma to provide some character growth. I'd gladly read another book or two in this series.