In this sci-fi debut, rebels try to subvert the aims of a greedy energy corporation.
On the planet Pearl, in the city of Urba, Cirrus Stark is a homeless drunk—a former law enforcement officer who was cut from the ranks of the organization MERCENARY and now lives on society’s fringes. While sitting at a train station, he happens to see his childhood friend Sagacious Gard walking past. They haven’t seen each other since their village, Highwind, was destroyed years ago by a magic-wielding, rogue MERCENARY soldier named Aggeroth Wyvern. Sagacious and her companion, Dash Black, take Cirrus to Seventh Heaven, a tavern that she owns in the Division Seven slums. After sobering up, Cirrus learns that Sagacious’ group, WAVE, plans to bomb one of the city reactors that convert “vim,” an energy from deep within the planet, into a marketable, if toxic, power source; it’s sold by Megacorp, which doesn’t care that vim is comprised of the essence of dead people. All members of WAVE can perform basic “mystics” (spells) using an “essenia orb,” but a woman named Grace Stillwater, who can grow flowers in her garden despite the reactor pollution, may be the key to saving a world where people connect more with handheld devices than with one another. For his debut, Van Horne presents an often compelling vision of technology running amok in a once-placid magical realm. The narrative’s engaging central theme is summed up best by Sagacious when she says, “I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world in which everyone and everything are beholden to an all-powerful corporation.” However, the novel seems to take too many specific cues, particularly in its plot structure, from the video game “Final Fantasy VII” for readers who know that game to enjoy this work. In one scene, for example, Sagacious’ young daughter, Darlene, even insists on calling the blonde, spiky-haired Cirrus “Cloud”—which also happens to be the name of the blonde, spiky-haired character from the game. The numerous conceptual swipes overshadow the more original ideas, which could have seeded a more genuine homage.
A sometimes-engaging fantasy that reads too much like a video game tribute.