In the first in a series, Meierz’s debut, a rich sci-fi love story about a female teacher sent to a foreign planet to tutor the daughter of its rulers in various Earth languages, could be described as a space-opera spin on Anna and the King of Siam.
When the government informs high school teacher Marianne that she has been selected for a mission to the Tolari homeworld, where she will be the sole human occupant on that planet for 26 years, she hesitates, although she’s aware of the unpleasant consequences that would befall her should she ignore this “request.” Once on Tolar, a planet that houses a humanoid species known for being technologically primitive by Earth standards, she comes to discover that things are not quite as they seem. Meierz’s novel charts Marianne’s slowly budding romance with the Sural, the Tolari leader, as well as her gradual acclimation to this new world that is perhaps not as bizarre or backward as she originally thought. Meierz writes admirably, conjuring an alien planet and culture in a manner as straightforward as it is succinct. Her assured, no-frills approach to worldbuilding makes it easy to suspend any disbelief one might have regarding the novel’s more fantastical elements. Her realistic characters and their relationships build organically. The romance that develops between Marianne and the Sural, as well as Marianne’s shift in allegiance, might not come as a surprise to any reader, and there’s a predictable, overly melodramatic revelation regarding a trauma in Marianne’s past, but Meierz captures readers’ attention through her naturalistic character development and pacing. She also makes Earth’s government truly frightening and reprehensible.
A beautifully realized story that proves that politically driven space opera and tender love stories do not have to be mutually exclusive.