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Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything--even destroying planets--to get their hands on her.

331 pages, Paperback

First published July 22, 2013

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About the author

Jacqueline Koyanagi

8 books295 followers
Jae Koyanagi writes speculative fiction with an eye toward exploring consciousness, mortality, and embodiment. Her novel Ascension landed on the James Tiptree Jr. Honor List. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies by Haikasoru and Candlemark & Gleam, and she writes for multiple serials with Serial Box.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 334 reviews
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,005 followers
December 4, 2013
This is what you need to know about Ascension, in a nutshell: a main character who is a queer woman of colour, grappling with a debilitating chronic illness in a context of poverty, who has a difficult relationship with her sister and starts to fall in love with another awesome female character who is polyamorous. IN SPACE.

If the above is not the definition of “shut up and take my money”, I don’t know what is.

Alana Quick is a sky surgeon in a crumbling shipyard who is forever worried about making ends meet. Hardly any vessels need to be fixed these days and Alana hasn’t been able to get a secure job on any ships so far. It doesn’t help that she has a painful chronic illness that is kept in check with expensive pills and whose cure looms in the horizon if only she could afford it.

Then a cargo vessel drops by looking to hire the services of her sister Nova (who is a spiritual guide) and Alana doesn’t think twice before stowing away. Maybe she can use the knowledge of Nova’s whereabouts as leverage to join the crew (this strange, strange crew that includes a fading girl, a wolf-man and a hot [HOT] captain) maybe she can join them on their quest to find a cure for their ailing pilot (and help herself as well).

But things are not that easy or as romantic as Alana expects them to be. There is real danger out there: the people who want Nova’s help don’t necessarily have her best interest at heart. When the unthinkable happens, all of a sudden they are all on the run for their lives.

There is a lot that is pretty awesome about Ascension including the way that Alana falls in love with ships, the hot (HOT) romance Alana and skyship captain Tev and the way that relationships and people are portrayed as fluid and ever evolving in a myriad of positive ways. But I was particularly impressed by its treatment of chronic illness and the fraught relationship between Alana and her sister Nova. With regards to the former, it is in the way that Alana pushes herself mostly because she needs to not only because she loves her job so much and nothing can stop her from performing it but also because she is poor and doesn’t have a choice but to work to pay for her meds. The contextual background of poverty is one that informs a lot of her decision-making and in a way this book could have been set right here, right now.

I especially liked how these two strands are so intricately linked in the way that their difficult relationship taps into the way both have learnt to relate to their bodies. Alana’s disease and the very real presence of pain makes her cling to her body whereas her sister wants to let it go. But for Nova, of course, it goes beyond that. It would be also so easy to reduce Nova’s decisions simply to a reaction to Alana’s illness but the story actually avoids this by making it a point to explore the topic of able body privilege. In this context this is a difficult topic because of how close both women are and the fact that Alana has limits doesn’t (shouldn’t) preclude Nova from having a choice to do what she wants with her own body regardless of how Alana feels about it. It is a strained, difficult relationship as a result and I loved this arc.

But there is not all there is to it. Alana’s narrative is one that is forged from her own experiences and prejudices and one that often exudes a certain level of naivety – part of her arc is that she still has a bit of growing up to do by learning to relate to other people. So in way, it is completely understandable that she’d behave the way she did, irresponsibly leaving her aunt behind on her own to join the crew of the Tangled Axon because of the dream as well as the possibility of a cure.

That said, it is not all rainbows and ponies. There is a certain lull in the narrative half-way through the novel and a certain tendency of the text to rely way too much on people not communicating with each other. At times it seemed that the plot only moved forward because of secrets that were kept for no good reason other than to prolong the dramatic tension.

But in the end, this was a pretty good novel. I can’t wait to read more adventures with the Tangled Axon crew.
Profile Image for AnHeC the Paperback Obliterator.
98 reviews52 followers
December 4, 2013
Word count: about 98 000
Rating: By all means, do move at a glacial pace; you know how that thrills me

Book-ie provided by NetGalley

First of all BLURB is a lie!

The main problem with this book is it doesn’t know what it wants to be. A si-fi? A romance? An adventure? A philosophical story? Should we identify with/like the MC or just witness the events? If you try to be everything at once, you fail, like that flying fish with legs. (Wait, what? What fish? Well, exactly my point.) Reading this book was like inviting a Spanish lover to find out he’s gay and Russian. Nothing against gays and Russians but I had expectations here! This is not a science fiction adventure. If these are the droids you’re looking for, move along.

Si-fi aspect is neglected (THE WHOLE WORLD BUILDING IS NEGLECTED), for example space travel. How it works? What about Einstein’s theory? How fast do spaceships travel? How many inhabited systems are there? How many intelligent races? Any workings of the world and technology, quite frankly, would be nice. We’re told so little it’s pathetic. Ok, there’s this ship, what does it do? I mean when you have a crew you don’t just fly around without purpose. So what is their job description? NOTHING. They’re just a bunch of friends/lovers merrily drifting through the Big Quiet .

The book starts with a bang, Alana is quickly thrown into an adventure, but then it gets very slow and introspective. At first I loved it, getting to know the heroine, the crew, reading about her obsession love of star-ships and space. All those emotional inner monologues created an atmosphere, allowed us to know the MC better. Things between crew and Alana unfolded slowly. It was lovely. A hero doesn’t immediately ever (in fact) get a chance to prove herself. It was good until it wasn't. You can’t drag something like that for too long unless you’re a master of addictive writing. I lost my patience a little bit before 50% mark. Yep. Slow 45% was AWESOME! And then came bleh. One romantic sentence filled me with desire to run ( I predicted a downhill slope right then). After 50% mark I had some hope left, but no. Only a little bit of action (including Alana acting like a stupid hoe – which didn’t help my ‘love’ of the book) and bam! Back to romance with full force! So much drama, so much MC’s emotional turmoil I wanted to slap her, and tell her to get over herself.

Romantic relationships in that book are so complex! Starting with MC being lesbian (no, not a spoiler, we learn that on a second or a third page). And then there are even more lesbians! Lesbians everywhere! So much potential for drama! And drama we get. Not a si-fi adventure. It should be titled “Story of dramatic misunderstandings in space”.

There are so many problems I don’t even know where to start.

Too slow/ nonexistent plot. It’s all about pseudo philosophical musings/ inner monologues/ romance&friendship&sisterhood drama. Action is scarce. Plot had a potential but is barely there in the end, serves as an atrophied remnant of a story that was meant to drive things, but doesn’t do shit. I almost DNF-ed at last 10 pages. Just didn’t give a damn about ANYTHING.

Fuck-ups in writing.

We get woman dominated world. Seriously? One guy(wolf actually) only? Main character? A woman. Random contact they’re looking for? A woman. Capitan of the ship? A woman. Doctor on the ship? A woman. Pilot of the ship? A woman. Random taxi pilot? A woman. Family of Alana we meet? Sister and aunt. Two women. Child aspiring to be a mechanic? A girl. Alana’s doctor? A woman. The only enforcer that ever speaks? A woman. And let’s not forget the woman that wanted to do ‘business’. Ships are feminine too. Practically every character we meet is female. I started to suspect that is some kind of post apocalyptic world without men, but Alana has a father and there is a male mechanic on the ship, so no. Just bad writing.

Certain facts are missing and we are left wandering wtf? At least I am, but maybe I’m just special. I wanted to know how many people are on that freaking ship, for example. MC tells us she recognizes people’s footsteps, so she knows who’s coming, but we are never explicitly told how big/small the crew is.

I don’t really like Alana, she’s passionate, that’s true, but also reckless and irresponsible. She’s willing to jeopardize the whole crew, her own life, pilot’s life, everybody’s freedom because... She’s feeling fucking sentimental(!) and decides to talk to a child about it. I mean WTAF? I liked her at first (apart from the very beginning; her way of getting onto a ship was... Suicidal? Criminal? Moronic? Pengun-ish? but I did my best to forget this part and like her. Well, ok, I didn’t, but she had a potential). Guess how it all starts? WTF? What kind of logic is that? BUT it was one reckless thing, she acted on an impulse, it happens; hence, that part I could understand (should’ve read it as a bad, bad sign though). If we add to that the reaction of a crew, it’s perfect (for a while). They don’t just all say: “oh, you’re an MC! You’re so awesome! Let’s bond!”. Things don’t go smoothly. I’ve enjoyed that very much. For a while I planned to give it **** and thought it had even five star potential.

No. Such. Luck. (Ha ha ha ha ha. Naive Little Me)

“By talking to the child, I’d condemned us all” -> That’s right BITCH! You’re so stupid I cannot believe it’s legal.

“Between this and my earlier stunt with the … I’d proven my irresponsibility several times over.” How nice of you to admit it. What? Should I applaud you? It’s mustard after dinner. ‘Don’t open’ sign on the inside. ‘Have a safe trip’ as welcome. Retrospective wits mean less than a pair of tits. LEARN bitch, learn.

I can forgive a lot, if it’s a story of growth. But it isn’t (even if the book claims it is at the end, which it does LITERALLY. I don’t care how vehemently my pet penguin swears he’s a toaster, I aint popping any bread in him when I want some toast). Alana hasn’t changed at all. We don’t see her being ‘the best’ anything, definitely not sky surgeon (like blurb suggests). Yes, she has a constant hard on for those flying vessels, but aside from her obsessive monologues about the depth, with and girth of her grand devotion to them and space there is nothing going on.

And what was this about: “Women with swagger like that….” bla bla bla. Now, I could easily forgive usage of the word ‘swagger’ has it been implemented jokingly. But you can’t have a full blown dramatic monologue and snick in some ‘swagger’. Talk about anticlimactic.

I also didn’t like the way the author handles Alana’s chronic degenerative nerve disease and pain in general (not a spoiler, we’re told at the very beginning). MC is some super human that is constantly often in excruciating pain (for one reason or the other) and just rolls with it. Broken ribs + getting smashed against the wall in throws of passion? Doesn’t matter in face of her LUV, more than that, it actually made her feel more alive. Like WTF?. Do you know any people with chronic pain? Or at least have you seen house MD? It affects you. It just does. But in this book the point about pain heightening sensation has been repeatedly hammered in during the same scene. Over and over again. Either Alana is a closet masochist without ever realizing it (it’s not like she lacked the opportunity with lifetime of pain... *sarcasm*) or the author knows nothing gets cute ideas that reek of ignorance. I know it’s supposed to highlight just how much they yearn for each other (i.e. Alana is so HORNY she’d hump a doorknob if there were any on the ship), I guess it was simply a straw that broke the camel’s back. The way author casually treats pain is a big no no for me.

And what’s with engineers having traditionally long hair? Really? What about, oh, I don’t know, COMMON SENSE? No wonder they’re a dying breed. Nothing screams professionalism like long, thick mane of hair. Again, I have long hair and it gets in a way all the freaking time. NOT an asset for an engineer.

And here we have it. The author divorced common sense in general.

That book deceived me. It pretended to be a si-fi adventure and then spited at me a surprising amount of personal bullshit and… Behold…. ROMANCE! It was slow and romantic and overly dramatic and pseudo philosophical. It’s not a sin, but I just came to the beach with all my ski gear. No fun at all.

To think I considered giving it 5 stars at a point…

Profile Image for lov2laf.
714 reviews1,058 followers
June 21, 2018
I've read a decent number of sci-fi books in the last couple of years but this is the first time the term "space opera" comes to mind.

Alana is a ship engineer living in poverty and barely has enough to buy the meds for her chronic
immune deficiency disease. She's always wanted to go to outer space but lack of opportunity has kept her planet bound. That is, until one space ship in particular calls to her and she can't help but stowaway and embark on an adventure she never bargained for.

This story has a lot going for it. The narrative was vivid, the characters distinct, and the plot was unpredictable. As for world-building, my definition may differ from others but if an author can immerse me into a story and create some new concepts, then I consider it good world-building which is the case for this book. However, there isn't a lot of explanation into the science or politics behind it all so if that's important to you, you may be disappointed. This was more of a character driven story about how each person affected one another and how one evolves when pushed to extremes. The pacing of the story was good and, quality-wise, it was also edited really well.

The story is very action adventure based and the crew is sent on a wild sprint across space as they're
put into a compromising position and are racing against a deadline. There's also an f/f romantic subplot that takes place between Alana and another character (not spoiling who that is). Family and spirituality are also themes that coarse through the book.

Overall, I did like the read. If I had any gripes I found Alana to be overly dramatic and basically petulant at times. Not often but enough. I don't like my leads falling into that but, for the most part, I liked and respected her character. And, for all of the ailments she had Alana still kept going which made me think she was wonder woman-like. My perception was probably affected by the fact that when I read this I'd pulled a muscle playing hide-and-seek and was nearly debilitated for a few days. You can laugh. I did. And, towards the end, it felt a little loosey goosey as romance, spirituality, and philosophy came into the read which made it less of an adventure and more about going into the meaning of life. Whatever mentions there were of spirituality or god, as I'm atheist, it wasn't awful. Some of it was based in science and could be interpreted as the awe of the universe that we can't explain. It's spiritual but not preachy.

Some things to note, the book has ethnic diversity and our lead, Alana, is black. The chronic disease descriptions and how it impacts Alana seems really authentic and is part of the character rather than a throwaway or token-like condition. The read also includes polyamory relationships. As for sexual orientations, it comes in diverse forms and isn't considered a cultural issue.

This looks to be part of a series but it's been a few years and book two hasn't arrived yet. Regardless, the first book is a complete standalone and I didn't feel like there were any loose ends.

For me, this wasn't a perfect read but I still enjoyed it especially because it was so different from what I usually find in books with f/f relationships.
Profile Image for anna (½ of readsrainbow).
596 reviews1,842 followers
February 14, 2021
rep: Black lesbian mc with a chronic illness & PTSD, disabled side character, polyam relationship

okay so listen:

* the main character is a black woman
* who’s an engineer
* and a lesbian
* she has a chronic illness
* ((and the narrative talks about how fucked are poor ppl who have it))
* she has a difficult relationship with her sister
* and suffers from ptsd
* there’s a character with a prosthesis
* also a woman
* seriously there are like two dudes
* and there are no pointless love triangles???
* there is a polyam relationship instead
* oh and it takes place in fucking space!!!!

the writing is beautiful and at its core it’s a wonderful warm story about love and people supporting each other and being a family and you should really just read it already
February 18, 2022
Black woman on the cover? Check!
Science-fiction space opera? Check!
Lesbian protagonist who is BIPoC? Check!
Spaceships? Check!
What the hell else do I need? Oh yes, to buy this ASAP!
Already bought and totally engrossed? Check!
Loving Alana? Double-check!

Seldom am I at a loss for words, but OMG, this novel pushed ALL my happy science-fiction geek chick buttons in a way that I haven't experienced since the glorious day I discovered Octavia Butler more than twenty odd years ago! This novel just knocked me for a loop and then some. I'm still kind of high right now.

New York would never have the balls to touch a book like this. BIPoC are LGBTQ and are also disabled folks and they're as capable of saving the universe as anyone else. They'd have kittens over the cover alone (no whitewashing here dear), much less a heroine who isn't size 0 strapped in leather and stillettos. Oh, toss in the complexities of a polyamorous relationship too, written with subtlety rather than going for the erotic jollies (a big problem I have with most menage romance books is they gloss over people's real emotions and issues).

Yes, this was a BIG space opera, yet for all its hugeness, the characters felt real. Alana, Tev, and the crew of the Tangled Axon could be any one of us. Issues like poverty, disease, searching for a place to belong, love--these know no color or creed. These characters are indeed relatable.

Just. Oh. Wow.

OMG, this book kicked ass! I'm going to actually pen a more coherent review, but damn, this was some amazing world building with people and places I hated to leave. Now when I look up to the night sky, I'll be hoping to see their ship, Tangled Axon, majestically streaking across the universe.
Profile Image for liz.
420 reviews12 followers
September 8, 2015
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about this book! I completely empathize with the author's stated intent: "[Jacqueline Koyanagi's] stories feature queer women of color, folks with disabilities, neuroatypical characters, and diverse relationship styles, because she grew tired of not seeing enough of herself and the people she loves reflected in genre fiction." I get that, and I want to read books by people who feel the same way I do! Unfortunately, Koyanagi's biggest goal is also where Ascension fails the hardest: having a diverse cast of well-realized characters. No good social justice intentions can or should mask the fact that the book is completely awful.

Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,625 followers
June 20, 2016
I hugely enjoyed this. It's much more fantasy than sci-fi in the end, or at least it's far heavier on the mystical elements than the spaceship engineering, which is fine by me. The writing is pretty baroque at points, but I found it fluent and evocative, and I adored the heroine. It's almost as much romance as SFF, with lots of tension, although were I rating it as a romance I'd have wanted a bit more meat on the conflict's bones. Picky picky.

The other thing is, the diversity. Which I feel a bit of a twit pointing out in this book because it's like going "the other thing is the spaceships. Yes! There are spaceships in a space book! Cool!" You often see Sad Puppies complaining that diversity is "shoehorned in" to books that ought to be about white heterosexual men, who are as we all know the One True Protagonist /rolls eyes/. This book features a racially and sexually and gender diverse crew, poly people (hint: when reviewing SFF don't let autocorrect make that 'polyp'), lesbians and POC in starring roles who don't die, people living with disabilities that aren't magically cured, and what it reads as is, um, *the world*. With a bunch of people who have and visibly live non-white-het-able-male identities but are kind of busy flying spaceships and dealing with universe-straddling villains and stuff right now.

Mostly I just enjoyed a rattling space adventure, but thank God for books that don't presume to show you the infinite universe while only letting a tiny fraction of humanity play in it.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,014 followers
September 18, 2013
I got this from Netgalley a while ago, but my backlog is horrendous and I took so long to get round to reading it that I'm not sure if there's a place to upload my review anymore. Still, here I am, doing my bit for this novel. I enjoyed it a lot, read it in more or less one sitting. It helps that there's a POC on the cover, who is the protagonist -- who is also disabled and a lesbian; it helps that it's a story about all kinds of love -- sisterly, romantic, friendship. Polyamorous, monogamous... In a way, it's full of wish fulfilment, in a way that the ending makes blatant. But that isn't always a bad thing.

It's a book dominated by women, where women are starship captains and engineers and doctors. One of the top reviews of this book on goodreads decries the fact that there is only one major male character, but since there's plenty of books out there without a single major female character, I don't think that's a bad thing either.

I wouldn't come to this if your interest is in hard science fiction, if you want to know how everything works. But if you're interested in people, living and loving in space, then it's much more likely to be for you. I can't really detail all the things I loved about it without spoilers: suffice it to say it's a warm book, often sensual, which unfurls slowly and steadily. This isn't sci-if with big explosions and chase scenes (though there's a little of that); it's speculative fiction about people in a world different to our own, that happens to be in space.

One thing I liked a lot is that there's one character I felt annoyed about: I was being told to dislike her, and I didn't know if I really should -- and then ultimately, I identified with her, with her wish, more than I did with any of the others. The protagonist was just being human about her, blinded by feelings and old resentments.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,434 followers
July 15, 2017
I had so many reasons for reading this - queer rep, women of color rep, chronic illness rep, etc. I've seen this book recommended for these very elements and it intrigued me. The beginning was great and got off with a bang, but then it took a left turn and became far more "space romance" than "sci fi adventure". This story has so many strong ideas and so much promise and I felt it was let down by weak writing and plot holes. I also thought some of the key elements - especially the handling of the poly romance - were handled poorly, giving me a lot of "this isn't right" vibes.

A lot of other reviews here have pointed out other problems beyond this. I would also point out that the worldbuilding is incredibly unbelievable and paper thin and very little made sense when I tried to think about how it actually worked. This drives me nuts, especially when it reads very strongly as mystic fantasy instead of the science fiction it's billed as. Spirit guides? Soul ascension? Magic ships? A guy who's actually a wolf...? It was odd.

And yet I also came away wanting to know more about some of the characters. Alana, the main character, not so much, but her sister Nova was the one character I felt I saw in a much different light at the end of the book than at her introduction. That was interesting!

As far as the writing goes, aside from the massive plot holes and handwaiving to move the story along, the emotions were incredibly over-described (which meant that I didn't feel anything) and, um, everyone is so aromatic. That's not a typo. I mean, literally, that everyone smells of something and it's constantly repeated. Marre's honey, Tev's rosemary, Nova is jasmine or something, and... I think I'd have a headache if I stood close to these people for too long.

Bottom line: It's romance more than adventure, and it's more mystical than sci fi. I really did like how Alana's chronic illness is portrayed, and how very real it is to struggle with a condition with little hope of continual medication or a cure. Recommended if you really wished the found family aspect of Firefly had actually been a real big happy polyamorous family and they lived in the Stargate: Atlantis universe where Ascension is real.

I'll read what Koyanagi publishes next, but I kinda hope it's a new concept and world altogether.
Profile Image for Shira Glassman.
Author 26 books510 followers
March 14, 2016
Ascension is an incredible book full of facets I never imagined from just the blurb. I'm growing increasingly dissatisfied with blurbs lately; this marks the third book that took me forever to read because the back jacket made it sound like an entirely different kind of story than it was.

At its core, this is a book about two incredibly different sisters who come to understand each other more while dealing with intense issues of life, death, pain management, and space technology. It's a book about grieving the loss of family and dealing with chronic illness--both of these written with such incredible truth (the author is herself disabled so that part just naturally rang true, and as someone who has lost plenty of family members I found myself agreeing completely with the protagonist's description of her response and healing process.)

It's also a book in which a bunch of space women (and one space man who is actually a space wolf; just go with it) wind up in poly relationships by the end. The "how did I get myself in even worse trouble than last time" narrator, a spaceship mechanic, is in love with the tough-girl captain, who's dating the ship's doctor, and it all works out for everybody thanks to the author's strong desire to see families like hers represented in science fiction.

I've seen it compared to Firefly, or "Firefly, except with disabled queer women, and more women of color!" (which includes the protagonist) but honestly that's just a surface resemblance because of the spaceship setting, family of choice, and "fighting the Big Establishment" ethos. What really makes this book special has nothing to do with Firefly. It veers far closer into science fiction territory rather than space opera, exploring issues of multiple realities and the idea of bending reality itself. There are excellent plot twists, and the resolution of the book was an entirely different kind of scene than the "boss fight" I'd been expecting.

Related: what is it with lesbians growing plants out of their bodies? This is the second book I've read in 2016 where that happened and it's not even March yet. Yes, it's an awesome image. (The other one was in Chameleon Moon.) I won't explain what happens here but it's awesome when you get to it. Suffice it to say that during that entire scene, the euphoria experienced by the protagonist (who herself has been turned into some kind of... dinosaur? Dragon? Hey, I'm there for it. Y'all know me) totally reminded me of Shabbat at temple. I don't feel bad about saying that even after the book reveals that the euphoria comes with its downsides, because my religious meditations are mild enough that I can, you know, leave shul when it's time to go home. (If none of what I said makes sense, revisit this review after you've read the book.)

There are some awesomely poetic lines in this book; I loved it best when it got rapturous and songlike. I love how space is called the Big Quiet and "the silence."

Trigger/content warnings for family members dying , a graphic description of why someone has a prosthetic, and mention of religious anorexia.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews159k followers
May 5, 2015
This is the diverse, queer sci-fi novel you’ve (I’ve) been waiting for! This was so much fun to read. A sky surgeon (spaceship mechanic) sneaks onto a ship to try to get a job, but things don’t go according to plan, and she may accidentally be involved in the kidnapping of her own sister. The plot is entertaining (including alternate universes!), but what made it even better was reading this space adventure story from the perspective of a black lesbian with a chronic illness. Ascension just makes it all the more obvious how much this layering of experiences makes for a richer, more interesting story, and I’m impatient for more Tangled Axon books. — Danika Ellis

from The Best Books We Read In April: http://bookriot.com/2015/05/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Blanche.
3 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2013
From the blurb, a reader in search of diversity in SFF might think they hit the mother-lode. Indeed, you can see this reflected in the reviews on Goodreads and elsewhere -- queer! woman! of colour! with a disability! -- as we proclaim that, yes, the characters of Ascension are not like those of other genre fiction. (Or even: They're like me! being one who fulfils 3/4 of the above.) Unfortunately, those characters are not very interesting, nor do they do much of interest, and there is little world-building to support the world they live in. Ultimately the focus of this book is not the SF, but the romance, and it would have been better classified as such.

From the start, I found the premise questionable. It is not preposterous for a spacecraft engineer to not have journeyed upon one -- or so acquaintances in astronautic engineering have told me -- in our universe, but it was difficult to believe, and not well supported, that the narrator would not have been able to apply through some corporation to have an on-ship post, or off-world post, if she were indeed the "best damned sky surgeon" in her city. (Her being the "best damned sky surgeon" itself was difficult to believe when there was little evidence of such displayed in even her internal dialogue. Show, don't tell.) Thus when she steals her away onto the ship as a stowaway, I lost sympathy for her and any of her further endeavours and never was able to regain it. The only saving grace is that the other characters also recognise her immaturity. Unfortunately I did not care enough for them to appreciate them because the reader can only see them through the narrator, a detriment to the choice of having a first-person narrative.

Plot, plot, is there even a plot? There seemed to be one, for a while, but it disappeared under the romance, which is how this book would best be classified. Again, appreciate that there were queer romances, but I would have preferred that they were less of a focus of the book. (Here as well is the narrative choice a detriment.)

As an aside, there is also the case that perhaps I lack the popular culture references needed to enjoy this. At times reading Ascension, I found myself wondering whether the author had watched Firefly and thought that it would have been better with more women involved. (Looking now at the author's personal site confirms her to be a fan.) Another reviewer raises that the ship had no purpose, and I agree: For what reason do these people remain together? Cynically, I respond: Well, the band of misfit friends of Firefly was amusing, so why not here?
Profile Image for Paul.
1,250 reviews192 followers
July 15, 2017
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi was an alright read that just needed more time spent in the planning stages. This book started out great, there was an interesting plotline about a woman with a chronic illness that struggled to afford to pay for her and her aunt's medication but she loved working on space ships and mechanical things so much, it was her calling in life. In order to have a better life for herself and her aunt, she stowaways on a ship looking for her sister, to attempt to talk the crew into becoming their engineer. The only reason they allow her to stay is because they are looking for her sister who is a spirit guide with a connection to the woman that might save the life of one of their crewmates. From this point, the story turns into a bit of a mess as the relationship focus wasn't really my thing, and the world building/magic just didn't make a whole lot of sense.

This book has lesbian characters along with a polyamorous relationship so if that is something you are interested in reading about, give it a try. I'm very pro-monogamy, so I couldn't really connect much to the polyamory aspects of the story. Also, I didn't think the characters were truthful enough with each other about their relationships for me to find the situation that they were in as something I could sympathize with. There was just a lot of lusting after the love interest and it didn't seem like there was much of an emotional connection between the people in the relationship. If the characters were more honest with each other and it focused less on falling for someone that already had a partner, I could see myself liking this book a lot more.

The magic, world building, and some plot elements just didn't really make a whole lot of sense at times. I didn't think that most of the book was explained very well and I feel that the tight first person perspective didn't help the reader understand. I liked some of the ideas in the story and I thought the characters had a lot of potential but were overshadowed by the problems. Overall I probably would give Koyanagi a second chance but probably not in this series.

9/25 Possible Score
1 - Plot
3 - Characters
1 - World Building
2 - Writing Style
2 - Heart & Mind Aspect

Profile Image for Wendy.
606 reviews136 followers
December 4, 2013
[ETA]Check out this inspiring and insightful interview with Ascension author Jacqueline Koyanagi!

Alana Quick is a sky surgeon, as evident by her long locs. She loves ships as one loves a significant other and has lost a few of the latter because she places her work first and foremost in her life. But she’s never actually left her homeworld in one. There is little money in her line of work, but she loves it too much to ever consider doing anything else and she refuses to sell out to Transliminal, the reigning corporation that offers promises of magic and money – and the potential cure for Alana and her Aunt Lai’s debilitating muscle disease.

When a ship arrives seeking Alana’s sister Nova, Alana obeys the ship’s summons and leaps on the opportunity to stow away in hopes of proving herself worthy of joining the ship’s crew. Captain Tev is understandably mad about this, but since they still need her sister, Tev allows Alana to remain on board. A catastrophic event following their retrieval of Nova turns ship and all onboard into hunted criminals who must get to the heart of Transliminal to both clear their name and achieve their initial goals.

In her bio, Koyanagi describes a desire to write books featuring atypical heroes and social structures. One review complained about the dearth of male characters. This isn't Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned where all but one male has died off. There are male characters, they just don't have prominent roles in the story. Fiction presents an opportunity for writers to venture far beyond the stereotypes and prejudices of reality, yet so often, we keep seeing white male-centric books with the occasional, lovingly described token people of another race and/or gender. Although I'd prefer to see greater equality over all, I can definitely forgive a writer who chooses to defy the standards and present a female dominated world without needing an explanation for it.

In keeping with Koyanagi’s atypical protagonist, Alana and several other characters are queer, but I was more intrigued by the incorporation of Alana’s disease. Considering her line of work and how reliant she is on her body as much as her mind, the cost of her medication, her desire to get treatment for herself and her aunt and the limited supply of medication adds an interesting twist to how the crew reacts to her needs, and the constant pain make her work difficult at times.

There were certain elements of the story, particularly the Tangled Axon and her crew, that reminded me of series like Sol Bianca and Firefly , so I wasn’t surprised by one of the big reveals. I did like the way everything forged together, particularly with Nova. This is Alana’s story, told from her PoV, but, considering the title of the book, Nova’s part to play is pretty significant. Koyanagi drops hints at this through long speeches from Nova that perhaps could have been more subtly strung throughout the story.

This is also a love story, as hinted at in the blurb. Alana’s attraction to Captain Tev is rivaled only by her attraction to the Tangled Axon and since Tev loves her ship just as much, it’s not hard to see where things are going. The path there is a bit long, but it allows for a lot of character development as Alana attempts to learn about her new crew.

The love story, the ascension, the quest – all come together in an ending that perhaps tries too hard to preach its point with all the shiny, but this is only a minor complaint and not enough for me to dislike the author for wanting to deliver her messages with a little bit of soul glow.

Koyanagi develops an interesting world. Each planet has unique traits that she describes with care. However, there is little overall to explain some of the elements of the world, such as “the breach” or how all this came to be. The latter didn’t bother me too much, though. If this takes place far into human future, I don’t think it completely necessary to dwell on exposition as to how everything came to be as it is, especially if that history does not really influence the story. And if this is just a galaxy far away and long ago, then even better.

As for the main character, I can’t say that I really liked her as a person, but I did find her interesting and very human. I like that she makes a lot of irresponsible mistakes and wasn’t simply accepted into the crew just because her skills proved her worthy. I like the way her obsession with engineering helps her to overcome her constant pain and she's never defined by or limited because of it.

There are a lot of really great ideas in this book and I definitely appreciate the refreshing take on certain elements within the genre. This was a very ambitious undertaking for a first novel. There is room for improvement in terms of pacing and extraneous wording in descriptions, but overall, a worthy addition to the science fiction universe.

With thanks to NetGalley and Masque Books for the opportunity to read and review this novel.

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Profile Image for Netanella.
4,280 reviews12 followers
December 10, 2022
There are many strengths to this novel and why I decided to read it next. It was chosen by one of my favorite groups, and it features a diverse cast of characters that include a black engineer with a debilitating disease, a disabled captain, a polyamorous relationship, a wolf-man, a disappearing honey-girl, etc. The crew dynamics were fun to read, and the first third of the book was pretty exciting, especially when Alana stows away on the ship.

But ultimately the book failed to thrill me in any way that I was expecting. There was a lot of emphasis on mystical spirituality instead of science fiction, and the heavy emphasis on this left little room for explanation and a whole lot of questions on my part. Oh! It must be mysticism. Well, that settles it. seemed like the answer to a lot of my questions. In the end my curiosity as to how the story would resolve lent me the drive to continue on, but ultimately I was unsatisfied with the ending and the characters, particularly Tev.

I'm not sure I would pick up another book by this author.
Profile Image for Angela.
160 reviews10 followers
July 11, 2013
I powered through this one because I really WANTED to like it. A hard SF novel about a lesbian woman of color? What's not to like?

First, the world building was a mess. It's a very difficult task in any SFF novel, to balance the audience's need to know versus boring info dumps. Here it took so long for some things to be made explicit that the big reveals were robbed of their impact, because I had already assumed that what was being implied and forshadowed was actual fact. When it's revealed that it's actually unusual for this setting, it felt like a let down.

The slow pace was a problem in the overall plot. And with all that time, little is done to flesh out the majority of the characters, until major bombshells are dropped in order to facilitate Alana's romance. And it took so long to get there that the romance jumped to warp speed within two pages and took up an outsized portion of the final 20% of the novel.
Profile Image for Aliette.
Author 265 books2,036 followers
December 21, 2016
An affecting space opera with a diverse cast which reminded me of Firefly (and I don't very often say that). Loved the Alana/Nova dynamic, and the way people turned out to have hidden depths.
Profile Image for Mpauli.
157 reviews464 followers
August 3, 2014
Love isn't explainable with the brain. It just "is". There're no rules, no explanations and it's just a beautiful feeling.

This is one of the messages Jacqueline Koyanagi tells us with her novel "Ascension". Within we're following Alana Quick, a sky surgeon, which is Koyanagi's equivalent of a cheap, run-down engineer who works out of a small shop and has never seen space.
In addition to that, Alana has a painful illness and needs constant medication to manage her pain. Her life changes the moment the star ship "Tangled Axon" lands on her planet. The crew is looking for her sister Nova though and isn't interested to add another engineer to their ranks. But Alana wants to finally fullfill her dream of working on a space ship and hides herself aboard the Tangled Axon.
There she has to convince Captain Tev and her crew of her ability to help them find her sister. And Alana also wants to convince Captain Tev of more, cause she starts to fall for the bossy lady.

The diverse cast of the Tangled Axon is one of the strengths of Ascension. With the exception of Ovie, the engineer who believes he's meant to be a dog/wolf, all the other crew members are women. Captain Tev, Slip, the doctor and Marre, the Pilot, who has a strange disease of her own.
This is not your typical starship crew and it's a nice change from genre standards.

After a strong first third the novel starts a bit to slow down, meanders all over the place and fizzles a bit. The romance plays a bigger role than the space opera in the middle of the book and there are some interesting philosophical questions asked, but they also slow down the plot.

As with the concept of love mentioned in the beginning, Koyanagi treats the concept of world-building. It just is, it needs no great explanation. That is a bit sad, cause she has thought of some interesting building blocks for her world such as spirit guides or a company from another universe with seemingly infinite ressources and power, but shes never really goes into the details of the hows and whys. It's okay, cause it isn't the story she wants to tell, but I would have liked a bit more on that frot.

There are a few action scenes in the novel, but again only if really needed. The goal is to show a lot of interaction instead of action.
So overall, this is far away from a bad read, but it didn't have enough of the things I like to get me really excited about it.
But if you like some romance in your Space Opera and don't shy away from 1-2 philosophical questions, the Ascension is definitely worth a look. Remember, the books just wants to be, so let it.
Profile Image for ambyr.
909 reviews79 followers
May 22, 2014
This book does a lot of interesting things very poorly. I appreciate the diversity of the cast, but I'd appreciate it more if that diversity didn't feel pasted on. The main character has a chronic pain disorder, but the symptoms disappear and reappear whenever it's convenient to the plot, allowing her to be an action hero as needed. At one point she breaks her ribs; then she falls in love, and this is apparently curative, because the injury is never mentioned again and certainly doesn't inhibit that love's enthusiastic consummation.

The overall worldbuilding was intriguing, and I would have loved to hear more about Transliminal's overall effect on the politics and economy of the protagonist's universe or the role of the spirit guides. Unfortunately, we never really get a coherent view of any of the institutional players' abilities or goals. Meanwhile, the protagonist spends a lot of time holding a planet-sized idiot ball to keep things moving briskly.

Particular nitpicky points of frustration for me include
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,156 reviews1,463 followers
November 6, 2015
There were parts of this novel that I loved and thought were great; there are also parts that, well, needed some work--typical of first novels, in many ways.

What I liked:
- the writing was really lovely and sharp in parts, like "I moved my new clothes around to try to get comfortable in them, but it was a bit like using a broom to sweep up all the sand on the beach." I also especially liked how Koyanagi described Alana's feelings for ships, like they're beautiful women who might become her lovers
- the cast of this novel is really diverse, but there's no tokenism and the characters are mostly well fleshed out. I don't think I've ever read a book with a black, chronically ill, lesbian main character and supporting characters all other shades of the rainbow (bisexual, Latina, black, disabled, and even a man who's kind of half human half dog). Almost all of the characters are women--something I read another reviewer complaining about. There are SO MANY books--sci fi and others--that feature all male casts and this novel is an awesome counterpoint to that. THIS NEEDS NO EXPLANATION.
-some amazing imaginative work here: I especially loved the description of the planet Adul and the mysterious floating beings who inhabit it and communicate in waves of colour; the twist at the end revealing the relationship between the ship and her pilot; the career of being a "spirit guide" who works with energy to transform reality

What needs work:
- plotting and details: there are some holes here that get in the way of suspending your belief in the story (like, why does Birke have to destory Adul? What exactly does the Tangled Axon do in space? You can't just have a ship floating around for no reason!)
- pacing, which is fairly uneven, quite slow going well into the middle and then rushed near the end, making it feel kind of anti-climatic
- world building needs some vamping--not a lot, but just some more support for the reader constructing the world
- the introduction of polyamory into the plot and the time Alana spent thinking about it felt pretty pedantic to me--I'm reading fiction and I don't want to be interrupted for a political treatise about how great polyamory is (as much as I support people who are poly)

All in all, I'm quite interested to see what Koyanagi writes next!
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,591 reviews76 followers
July 18, 2021
“Love is like sunlight. You can give all of yourself to someone and still have all of yourself left to give to others, and to yourself. To your work. To anything or anyone you choose. Love isn’t like food; you won’t starve anyone by giving it freely. It’s not a finite resource.”

3.5 stars. Relationships, characters and writing are doing a lot of heavy lifting for this one. There are several shaky things about the plot and worldbuilding, things that I'd count as flaws, but also I don't... really... care about plot when you give me characters I grow to freaking adore!! Like these!!

It's a queer, found-family, family-centric space opera with a good heaping of romance. Alana, a ship mechanic who adores her craft, has always dreamed of travelling into the vastness of space, the Big Quiet. When a ship passes through, looking for her sister, she takes the opportunity to stow away, and in so doing begins a wild ride of an adventure. I picked this up primarily because it was f/f sci-fi with a black lead, but I also got a few other things that I ADORE: nuanced and realistic polyamory, a main character dealing with chronic illness and the disability that attends it, sisterhood, and just a lot of really wonderful, thoughtful writing. I love space operas like this, ones that really make you feel the enormity of space, what a wonder space travel is. I loved having a main character like Alana, who is constantly in awe of it, and the ships that allow for space travel. Also, there's a scene that takes place on a view-deck-esque place that made me lose it a little, lol. I loved the entire crew, but especially Tev because, I mean... Tev. The romance here was so so good; intense and swoony and entirely relatable. All of the relationships were great; I love the loyalty between captain and crew, the slow-growing trust between shipmates. There are so many remarkable gems in the writing; a lot of things that made me pause and think, or just pause to appreciate how pretty it was.

The world-building is really interesting, but again, shaky. A lot of things go unexplained; a lot of concepts and points just weren't mentioned until the moment they were relevant, whereupon the book is just like, "oh yeah, this is a thing in this world." The plot was sometimes similarly flimsy. Some Big Events happen, and while the characters reacted to it, it never felt like it was given the weight it deserved, somehow? I love sister relationships, but I feel like a lot more groundwork needed to go into this one for me to be as invested as the book wanted me to be. I loved them, not a doubt about it! But Nova needs to grow on me a bit more, especially given the things we learn early in the book.

I have other little nit-picks (the biggest of which is a decision/mistake Alana makes that I can't really reconcile with her character, and how the fallout was dealt with) but again... I don't care that much. "Found family but make it queer and in space" is just one of my favourite things, and I loved all these characters so much. I'm going to be thinking about them for a long time. <3

Content warnings: .
Profile Image for Marianne (Boricuan Bookworms) .
809 reviews402 followers
June 1, 2017
I'm really conflicted with Ascension . On the one hand, I loved the diversity and how it felt like Firefly .

I loved that Alanna was smart and strong. She was a queer black woman with chronic pain. She was a gifted mechanic. She was also poor, which made it easy for me to connect with her daily struggles.

Like I said above, I also loved the Firefly vibe that I got from the crew and the situation: they're criminals on a beat down ship on the run. I loved the idea of a "found" family. The crew is really a tight knit group, and spoiler, (but not really) they're polyamorous. They all love each other in different ways and it's nice to see how close they are. I also really enjoyed that Nova, Alanna's sister also joins the adventure with them and we see her conflicted relationship with Alanna and how they both navigate that together.

However, some things stood out to me as iffy or maybe even problematic?

First of all, how Alanna's relationship with the crew starts. She first joins them as a stowaway, and it's obvious there's going to be some mistrust. But I didn't enjoy how she was treated. She was held hostage by the ship's captain. The captain then proceeds to electrocute Alanna, has Slip (the doctor of the crew) inject Alanna with a substance that she tells her is going to make her chronic pain worse until she dies, and overall just manipulates her emotions to get what she wants. We're told that the captain has her motives, but honestly? This is just abusive behavior and it rubbed me the wrong way. Not to mention several other times where she's poked and prodded without consent with is just several shades of messy.

I was really also very confused throughout the story because I thought from the beginning that we were going to find out the crew was polygamous, but, we don't find out until almost the end, when the captain could've told Alanna at any time so their relationship could've proceeded without problem.

The last thing that was the representation of Ovie, another mechanic from the ship. Ovie is a black man and throughout the whole book he's always described as some kind of wolf-man. It felt weird to me that he would be described or be given actions like "growled" or "snarled" or whatever, because it felt like he, the only black man, was being described as some sort of animal? At the end it's explained to us that but I don't know, I felt weird.

However, I know the book has really good chronic pain rep, because ownvoices reviewers have expressed how well represented they felt. The author herself is ownvoices for chronic pain and polyamory, so I don't doubt it's good representation.

Overall, the book definitely got me out of a book slump, but I wonder if all these different misgivings could've been handled better so the book could've been a hit. The ending was beautiful and I really connected with the writing, but yeah, I can't look past the problems I found.

Overall from me, this gets 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Tainá.
47 reviews6 followers
March 4, 2018
I think one of the reasons I loved this book so much was because I didn’t know much about it before reading it. So I’m not gonna give too much away. Just know that blurb doesn’t really reflect how amazing this book is.

It is so layered and so beautiful. It deals with poverty, pain, grief and so many different types of love.

The story is told by Alana’s pov, a woman who’s dealing with a chronic illness with a treatment far more expensive than she can afford and has loved the sky and the old ships in it since she was a kid. I was in love with her by the end of the first chapter.

I love a good slow burn romance and this one was great. The pining, the light angst, the buildup . I wish we had seen more of them after they were together. Also no matter how many times I read about found families its always warms my heart, and I definitely want more of that. I’m hopeful we gonna have all that in the sequel that is for sure coming, right?

Even if it hadn’t done so many things right already, anything that doesn’t undermine how powerful the bond between sisters can be has a place in my heart.

The story does have some weak spots, but I think it’d only have a strong impact if you were looking for reasons to dislike it. It’s an incredible book (especially when you consider that this is a debut novel) and is already a favorite of mine. I look forward to reading it again someday.
Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews215 followers
September 14, 2013
In a genre full of perfect white heterosexual men, this book is a breath of fresh air. Because of her love for ships, stars and space, I've identified better with Alana, a queer woman of color with a disability, than with all the male characters in genre novels this year.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,210 reviews189 followers
February 15, 2019
Cool worldbuilding alert! Ascension takes place in a universe where spaceship mechanics are called “sky surgeons” and the work is more personal and intuitive than cranking inanimate gears. Thus when Alana, a sky surgeon who’s never been off planet, stows away on a ship, she hopes to build a relationship not just with the crew but with the ship itself. As an uninvited guest, it takes her some time to ingratiate herself with the wildly varied cast of characters that call the ship home, but Alana craves adventure and new experiences and she won’t let her (devastatingly sexy) new captain drop her off back home without a fight. Considering the chronic illness that causes her serious pain even with medication, it would be easier for Alana to stay in her safe little bubble, but now that she’s had a taste of space flight, she’s hooked. This book is effortlessly inclusive, with all kinds of diverse characters and relationships, and while it’s not as polished, I think it would be a good pick for fans of Becky Chambers.
Profile Image for Sadie Forsythe.
Author 1 book272 followers
July 18, 2015
Oh man, this book disappointed me so hard. When I first heard of it, I thought, "Lesbian POC as a main character? Hell yeah." Then someone referred to it as a lesbian Firefly and I ordered it the same day. Man, what a let down.

★Let's start with the writing, it's obscured, full of phrases like this: "His voice eventually tore in half, and he was quiet." What the hell does that mean? It meanders. It repeats itself. It's too flowery to be functional.

★Then there is the sex, which relates to the obscure writing. It was (I think purposefully) vague about what went where, such that phrases like "she slipped into her" felt very P-in-V. Surely, in that example it was meant to be a finger or some such, but lacking that information it resulted in the most hetero-feeling lesbian sex scene I've ever read.

★Then there is the romantic angst. My god, it drug out FOREVER because the MC would neither ask for clarification nor allow anyone to explain it to her. It was drawn out far beyond what could feel natural.

★Then there is the main character. I simply didn't like her. She was reckless and a little TSTL. She created problems everywhere she went doing stupid things. And no one ever called her on it.

★There is almost no world building. Info bombs are dropped and never explained. For example, ships are referred to as alive but it's never explained what that means or in what manner (and that's far before the final reveal). There is no known political system. The science is basically hand waving.

★Outside the main character, there is no character development (and only a little for the MC). You don't get to know anyone in any depth.

★The finale came out of left field and didn't feel tied to the rest of the plot at all. And true, even considering the book basically just wonders around almost aimlessly in general.

★But worst of all, the book was bloody boring. There is so much internal angst and philosophical nonsense that my attention started to drift. This is the only book I have ever read that managed to make the genocidal destruction of an entire planet and research station, including people important to the characters, dull. Honestly, there was nothing.

So basically this book was a fail for me, made even more strongly so by my having such high hopes for it, going in.
Profile Image for Danika at The Lesbrary.
527 reviews1,336 followers
April 25, 2015
I loved this! More of a 4.5 stars. Black lesbian main character with a chronic illness on an awesome space adventure?? More, please. I feel like tumblr has been begging for this particular book to exist. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Laz the Sailor.
1,490 reviews76 followers
July 30, 2021
I'm conflicted on my rating. The world-building was very good and the characters were interesting, but the plot, adventures, and the quasi-fae mystic aspects were weaker.

The cultural issue were classic (rich/poor, etc) but I never understood the motivation of the bad guys.

The story ends properly, though the series continues. I probably won't read the next one.
899 reviews28 followers
January 5, 2019
Wow! What a treat to start off 2019 with such a great book. Imagine an iconic space opera (::cough:: Firefly), but written by a queer disabled woman of color and with characters who are also mostly queer disabled women of color. Adventures, explosions, running from the law, blurring of science and illusion...everything you could want from a good sci-fi action book, with eloquent explorations of timeless themes such as life/death, relationships, and the messiness of having a body. I'm excited to recommend this one, and I look forward to discussing it with anyone who wants to talk to me about it, especially if you're one of those people who's stuck on what in the world to read next after falling in love with Becky Chambers's books (go read those too and talk to me about them too if you haven't yet!)
Profile Image for Claudie Arseneault.
Author 19 books408 followers
March 23, 2016
This book is amazing.

(That's it, that's my review)

A-MA-ZING. I loved it.

It's a great page turner. The pacing never slows, yet it never feels like it's rushing ahead and leaving you confused. The characters are amazing, multi-faceted, constantly evolving and growing and showing new layers of depths and I love them all. I was going to say "especially X" because normally I have an obvious fav but ... not this time? they're ALL great.

The worldbuilding is solid, too. I did get a little confused about what was a planet, a region, a solar system, and their universe? But it doesn't hinder the story as a whole and it's really easy to just forget you're not too sure because everything makes sense anyway, so I'm not even gonna remove a star for that.

With my ONLY negative comment behind me (seriously), here are other reasons this book is awesome. Alana. Alana fighting for her dream, her life, her body. Alana, simultaneously so confident in who she is and so insecure in her worth. Alana, a disabled woman struggling with chronic pain, written by an author who has chronic pain (others can talk better about this, as I am not disabled). Not to mention the complex relationship she has with Tev, the slow build of romance (which yesss did not feel forced to me at all), the honest-to-god (spoilers for romance ending) Plus Word of God says one of the crew is ace, and boy do I have STRONG HEADCANONS that I can't wait to confirm. :)

I'm not done yet. Because I want to touch on the two main themes in these: the importance of family, whether you're born with it or whether you found it, and the relationship between identity and how others perceive you. Found family is one of my favourite theme. It is so so so close to my heart (which seems to be frequent in LGBT+ circles) and I LOVE the way it is handled in this book, and how the crew IS family. I absolutely love how Alana's relationship with crew members evolves while she slowly integrates, but also how her delicate, often difficult relationship with her sister, Nova, evolves. Nova-Alana might be my favourite thing here. So many layers of characters and depths and love in there.

As for perception and identity? This one builds throughout the novel, both in subtle ways and in how the entire plot relies on it, and you can find it tie into plot points and character arcs with great skills. It left me with lots of thoughts about the persona we project vs who we are, about finding people who will love you AS you are, about how much our personal beliefs influence what we see.

So there you go. A billion good reasons to read ASCENCION. Go forth and do so! :)
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