What Publisher: St Martins Griffin
Release Date: Out now
What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you’d been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?
Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth’s collapse, the ship’s crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader’s efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don’t know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them…
Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.
But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren’t all from the outside.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
A multigenerational space-ship on a long term mission to find a new home, is the setting of this YA. The premise caught my eye because it was similar to Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series, which I enjoyed and I am always partial to this trope of exploring and settling into new planets. However, Glow never really lived up to that promise for me due to a few issues, such as the narrative structure, religious themes, and characterisation.
Glow is narrated via two different protagonists: Waverly, who is dating and expected to marry Kieran — who is the other narrator of the book. Keiran is being groomed to take over the captaincy of the Empyrean and is also one of the few who is religious in a ship which is mostly populated and run by secularists. A sister ship, the New Horizon, had broke away from them due to political and religious reasons reappears, and tensions start to mount between the two colonist ships. Because of their long term voyage to New Earth, most of the settlers had difficulties with conceiving children, but the Empyrean managed to find a treatment to help cure infertility. Nonetheless, due to the problems the younger generation are pressured to marry and have children. This something Waverly is being encouraged to have by marrying Keiran and having babies. The New Horizon has learned that that the Empyreans have managed to successfully cure themselves, and have now targeted them and they want their girls, because their treatment failed to succeed and left them infertile.
I initially loved the start of the Glow, which opened up pretty quickly with the conflict between the two sister ships. It was filled with shocking moments and tense action as the crew of the New Horizon invades and kidnaps the young girls. But then the book started to disintegrate for me with the dual narration which switches between Waverly and Kieran. Instead of different chapters, it was split into parts and I found that they tended to be overlong. It affected the pacing and tension in the plot. I really got frustrated because by the time the plot and pacing with either Kieran’s or Waverly’s POV really got going, it quickly switched to the other narrator which solved that previous tension abruptly and slowly built another. I don’t mind dual or multiple protagonists, but in this case with Glow it didn’t work for me because it felt so much like a bait and switch and it was annoying.
Another aspect of the book that I didn’t think the author explored well, although I got her intention, was the theme of religion and how it was used by the colonists and especially in relation to their reproductive issues. This could have been brilliantly done because it was pretty reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale which is one of my favourite books of all time and the themes are highly important and reflective to events that is happening right now across the world. However, the execution of how this theme played out didn’t work. The idea of two sister ships, one run by a religious fundamentalist who uses religion as a force for control, and the other ship being secularists did have a great premise. But characterisation fell far short on this. Keiran who is one of the few practicing religious members in the Empyrean, becomes very devoted with his faith but I was left uncomfortable because he was becoming a fanatic and unlikable. I didn’t like this subtext because Keiran was one of the few characters who didn’t view religion in a negative way and I thought it was a good counterbalance for those who did or used it for a force for bad. Although I get the sense and direction that Ryan is heading into with this theme, I just felt she handled this theme in a heavy handed way and it also highlighted issues with her characterisations especially for her male leads which made them inconsistent.
For instance, Seth who first appears to be this quiet type is attracted to Waverly, and she is drawn to him. Seth dislikes Keiran intensely because he is seen as the golden boy but also view him as weak and indecisive. I liked Seth because he was more upfront and decisive and was a foil with Keiran’s more thoughtful approach. And when the attack happened and the girls were kidnapped by the crew of the New Horizon, the antagonism between Keiran and Seth was one of the best and realistic plot points of the book. But then the curse of the TSTL and being a total bully alphahole developed with Seth’s character. It was like a 180 turn and it really made me dislike his character and I can’t see a way where the author can make him redeemable despite the tense and dangerous setting the characters experienced. The same happened with Keiran’s character and his views on religion too, and I think this was a way to bring the plot forward but not the characters. This made the characterisation so inconsistent and it is difficult for me to be behind characters like this. I don’t mind flaws or problems but there has to be a real reason and not to bring forward plot points or themes.
The main factor that I really loved about this book was the fact that Amy Kathleen Ryan, didn’t shy away from dark issues and themes. I was pretty shocked that the dark events happened to Waverly and the girls that were taken, and it was pretty much verging on reproduction rape and there were real repercussions. The panic and the mayhem with the boys dealing with a broken ship and the infighting that happens was tense and gripping — although I had certain issues with some aspects of that plot-line and narrative structure. I even liked the deliciously cold Anne Mathor who is the spiritual leader of the New Horizon, and the strained relationship she has with Waverly, who is my favourite character of the book. I felt out of the main characters, Waverly and Anne were well developed and fleshed out.
I have real mixed feelings about this book, and I am unsure if I will follow up with the sequel because I am not keen on the heavy-handedness of the religious themes or the inconsistent characterisation. I also am not keen on the love triangle which is definitely forming between Waverly, Seth and Keiran because frankly I would prefer her not to choose either of them. But Glow did explore real and dark issues and I think despite its flaws it has real promise. So I am torn about the grade because I have such strong feelings about the good and bad elements in the book. I think that’s a good thing overall because it has left me thinking about issues and so I will give Glow a C –