DESERT MELODY by Laura Evans Serna


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A nonhuman woman struggles with conflicting loyalties in Serna’s debut novel.

Teagan is a Voyan, a species living secretly among humans on Earth. The Voyan can sense one another’s thoughts and emotions, an attribute that heavily shapes their communities. Teagan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her extended family in a house where few words are spoken, as its residents prefer to communicate telepathically. Teagan, however, is isolated by a disability: a few years ago, shortly after she became pregnant with her half-human daughter, Brianna, she lost her telepathy. The profound silence at home drives her to socialize with humans and the Ahn (another humanoid species). In the human world, she avoids contact with Brianna’s abusive father, Sandro, and searches for a cure for Voyan Fatigue Syndrome, which has been killing Voyan babies. Teagan catches the eye of attractive human family-law attorney Josh Camden; she seeks his help in keeping Brianna from Sandro, and their own relationship gradually becomes romantic. But Teagan’s community is moving to a desert Voyan center, far from human settlements, and they want her with them as she’s an invaluable, lifesaving wet nurse for Voyan infants. However, they want her to leave Brianna behind, so she and her closest family members seek a way to escape Voyan leadership. Meanwhile, Josh learns Teagan’s true identity, and more information comes to light about her mysterious disability. Serna’s worldbuilding is highly imaginative. Thoughtful, small details, such as the fact that the Voyan’s facial muscles gradually weaken because they rarely speak or emote, enforce the reality of her unusual setup. However, the ambitious plot has an abundance of moving parts, and as a result, it occasionally becomes scattered, leaving some issues unresolved. For example, after the story establishes the danger of Sandro, he anticlimactically disappears from Teagan’s life, and a third-act revelation of secret experiments seems to merit follow-up but isn’t explored further. Josh and Teagan’s love affair is sweet but a bit too familiar, as his character adheres closely to the romance trope of the hunky, wounded, and protective man.

A flawed but intriguing sci-fi debut.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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