Review: Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston

Author: E.K. Johnston
Publisher: Dutton
Released: May 25, 2021
Received: Own
Warnings: Abuse, trauma, food rationing, starvation, forced pregnancy, human trafficking

4 kitties

E.K. Johnston, the author of excellent novels such as Ahsoka and Queen’s Shadow, has decided to grace us with a new science fiction book, Aetherbound.

Pendt Harland has only ever known her family’s interstellar freighter, the Harland. On this ship, everyone must be useful – they do not have any resources to spare. So from a young age, Pendt knew that she had to find a use for herself.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t born with the gifts of her brothers or her cousins. So she kept waiting for her talent to show itself; only when it finally did, she found herself more trapped than ever. Treated as somebody worse than useless, her family shuns her, leaving Pendt some time to plan a way off the ship.

“Not knowing was a weakness, and no weakness could be tolerated in space.”

Aetherbound is an intense, traumatic, and intelligent read. It portrays a world in space that has the potential for great beauty – but once again, some would do everything in their power to ruin it.

Pendt’s life on her family ship is brutal and heartbreaking. Now would probably be a good time to mention that several content warnings come with this book (E.K. Johnston herself included a warning at the beginning of the book, which I adore). This novel contains instances of abuse, trauma, food rationing, starvation, forced pregnancy, and human trafficking. These elements are very relevant to the story Johnston is trying to tell and cannot be avoided.

Back to the point, I was trying to make – Pendt’s early life absolutely broke my heart. The idea of being called useless every day sounds so painful and sad. A feeling that only gets worse once the plan for her becomes apparent.

“Choosing was new for her, and she relished it.”

Once the Brannick twins are introduced in the story – and the universe – seem to brighten up instantaneously. Right away, I found myself liking these two, as well as the goals they were hoping to achieve.

There were times when I wish more details were available. Specifically on how the station ran, the universal politics, and the overall background of it all. I understand that most of that was simply a setting for the plot to exist within, but I am just so curious about it all – I can’t help it.

For me, it is absolutely the characters that sell this story. They wormed their way into my heart, forcing me to care about their stories and their struggles. It was impossible to look away from it all and has left me hoping that against all odds, we’ll see a sequel someday. Just so I can check in on this trio and make sure they’re doing alright.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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