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*I received this book as an eARC on Netgalley from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
The whole premise of this book - that an entire civilization has come from Earth and developed on a planet completely covered with water - is what originally drew me in. I'm always up for a good story that takes place in extraordinary conditions. Throw in a little bit of mystery (what kind of monster lives in the depths of the ocean that can destroy an entire planet??), some pirates, and a strong heroine, and you've got me hook, line, and sinker. Although it wasn't exactly what I expected, Howard did not fail to deliver with Katya's World.
I think my favorite part of this book was definitely the world building. Howard had to take something completely new and fashion it in a way that the reader could relate. At times, I would forget that this entire story was taking place under the ocean and then I'd be hit with some subtle detail and be amazed all over again at how Howard created such a place. Plus, all of the new devices and such the Russalkans had to create in order to adapt to living underwater just seemed so real and like something that might one day exist.
Although the name of the world is adapted from Russian, it seems like there was quite a bit of Russian influence that was lacking. I understand that after the war, many of the Russalkans wanted nothing to do with Earth and any of their ancestors, but I think it would have been a nice touch to have included a little bit more of the Russian culture into the novel.
One of the only things that really bothered me about this novel was the pacing in some places. I felt like Katya and her fellow Russalkans would be off worrying about one problem and trying to figure out a solution when all of a sudden - BAM! - here's something new and completely unrelated! While it did keep me on the edge of my seat, there were points when I felt so anxious and really would have just liked one or two simple conflicts to have been resolved.
I really liked Katya, but I didn't think that her personality was very well matched with her age. I don't see any fifteen year olds ever acting like Katya, and I think it would have been better to have had her a little bit older. Even 17 or 18 would have made things a little more believable. The supporting characters, however, were excellent. Especially the pirates and the Leviathan. I loved how the creature was constructed and then how it evolved over time. Even if this had taken place on a normal planet, I think the characters would have carried the story and made it just as engaging.
If I were to try and explain this book to someone, I think it would be fairly difficult. It's one of those books that doesn't fit into just on genre, but I think that it definitely works in this case. You've got a little bit of dystopia and post apocalyptic going on, and definitely a lot of science fiction. I mean, they live on a world completely covered by oceans. And of course there's the YA nature of the young protagonist. So, I would probably recommend this book to anyone who enjoys hardcore Sci-Fi, but is looking for a younger cast and an easier to read story. I would give this book a 4/5, and I will definitely be looking for the rest of the Russalka Chronicles!