ARC REVIEW: Aetherbound

Thank you to Penguin Teen Canada for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley.

I’m a big fan of E.K. Johnston’s work in the Star Wars universe, so I was very excited to receive and ARC of her newest stand-alone sci-fi YA novel, AetherboundI was even more excited to learn that the incredible Ashley Eckstein was going to be narrating the audiobook – what kindStar Wars fan doesn’t love Ashley?!

Aetherbound is an interesting foray into worldbuilding. Society has been seemingly reduced to live aboard space stations and cargo ships, everyone having a place and a use to the rest of the collective or else they are placed elsewhere (or even killed for being a waste of supplies). A certain kind of magic exists as well, in tune with a force called the Aether. Pendt Harland is in tune with the Aether but in a way not useful to the crew, but of potentially high value to others and is at risk of being sold to another ship or station upon her 18th birthday. When she decides it’s time to escape her life and her family, Pendt meets the Brannick twins and the three of them work together to make their lives their own.

The worldbuilding in this novel is intense. I loved all the concepts introduced and the complexity of the essentially closed societies that have been formed on the stations as well as the ships. That being said, a lot of it was told through massive info-dumping rather than being teased out by the characters. It made the novel feel like it wasn’t quite formed in its entirety at times and read more like a planning guide rather than a finished story. I would have liked it to have been explained more through dialogue or character actions rather than informative narration as I feel that would have built a closer connection to the characters and been a more immersive story. I liked the characters enough, Pendt is a sweet and perseverant girl and I loved the Brannick twins immediately, but I wanted more from them. I wanted more of a reason to cheer them on than just the upsetting circumstances this world has put them in.

Said “upsetting circumstances” definitely did make me uncomfortable at several moments, so I did appreciate the trigger warnings for medical trauma and calorie counting (not eating disorder based for anyone wondering, it’s more of a portion control thing) that were listed at the beginning. Selling off young girls (yes, 18 is young) for the sake of them being able to have children is really uncomfortable and the insemination moments had such an intense air of violation that I skimmed over the scene as fast as I could. I almost think that this novel would have been better has it been longer, with more time to tease out the world building, and marketed as more of a new adult or even straight up adult science fiction novel.

I still love E.K. Johnston and I will still continue to support her work, but I won’t like and say my 3-star rating for this one is mostly based on Ashley Eckstein doing an amazing job with the audiobook….


Aetherbound is now available in stores and online.

Fun with Ahsoka Tano

Yesterday was a wonderful day here in Toronto. The weather was cool, I spent the day with my best friend, and – better yet – I got to meet one of my favourite Star Wars characters, Ahsoka Tano!!

her-universe-lego-dress.jpgI have adored the Her Universe clothes line from the moment I first heard of it, and during a fashion show livestream I watched from SDCC, I died when I learned that the one making all the sure cool Ahsoka clothing was Ahsoka herself!! Ashley Eckstein is such a bundle of joy and nerdiness I’ve wanted her to come to Toronto for ages now. Any Clones Wars or even Rebels fans know how important Ahsoka is and how strong she is as a character. Her development through five seasons of one show and then her several appearances in the other mean the world to me. So when Ashley posted on Instagram she was coming to the Eaton Centre, I couldn’t say no.

The reason she was coming was to promote her new book, It’s Your Universe: You Have The Power To Make It Happen. Flipping through it in line, the book is part autobiography and part inspirational guide to making your dreams come true. It’s about showing how someone who has been told nothing but “No” or “You can’t do that” can still be a success and achieve dreams others felt impossible. It can be for children or for adults because at the end of the day, we could all use being told to never give up no matter how impossible our dreams my seem.

The signing itself was held in the Eaton Centre’s Hot Topic (a dark place I haven’t set foot in in ages) and felt to take forever, but for once I didn’t mind waiting in line in a store that was a thousand degrees. No, I’m serious. Ashley – and surprise guest E.K. Johnston – were taking their time and talking to every single fan that was there. She was asking people who their favourite character was, why they came to see her, if they liked Rebels or Clone Wars better, and then thanking every single fan for taking time out of their day to come down. Not only that, but E.K. and Ashley were also taking pictures with everyone.

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It was probably one of the best book signing experiences of my life and I am still so happy I got to meet Ashley Eckstein while decked out in Star Wars everything. (She even complimented my Mud Trooper hat from the Smuggler’s Bounty Solo box)

PS. – I had already had the honour of meeting E.K. Johnston when I was at March Toronto Comic Con, but it was so nice to see her again. She’s a lovely person and I always love hearing authors and celebrities geek the hell out over things. I love her.