Keir is Pippa Jay’s first published novel, and I am hoping she’s got more in store for us because I really liked it! Spunky and fun, the book follows Keir and Quin on an exciting planet-hopping adventure as they hunt down Quin’s ancient enemies and investigate Keir’s mysterious past.
Keir begins strongly, introducing readers to the medieval-esque society of Adalucien where Keir is imprisoned. Starved, weak and depressed, he is on the brink of death when he is joined in his prison by a strange woman – who promptly escapes. One hair-brained adventure follows another, with Keir being introduced to societies where his differences aren’t so important, and sometimes mark him as special. He slowly begins to accept himself, feel comfortable in his own skin, and I really liked the character development he goes through. Quin, on the other hand, is already self-assured and confident, and although she’s still easy to relate to and likeable, her growth as a character isn’t as marked. She’s always very much in charge, and always compassionate, wilful and loyal. But she has a lot of hurt inside her and basically wants to be accepted and loved just like Keir.
The world building is really cool in this book – Earth has been destroyed, but some humans live on in a genetically enhanced form that has given them powers – telekinesis, telepathy and the like. Quin, who became immortal and gained these powers after Earth was destroyed, has spent hundreds of years searching for the alien responsible on other inhabited planets through the use of “gateways” (wormholes) that allow her to cross into any time and space she wishes. We get to see a few awesome aliens in this book, and I have to say the ones that made the biggest impression on me are Surei and the Metraxian people. I love the idea of palaces made from coral! I think the book would have benefited from more clarification on the impacts of Quin’s time travels – she never really hits any paradoxes or explains why she can’t just go home and try again if something fails.
My complaints about the book are few and for the most part didn’t worry me much. I feel the characters use too much slang native to our society – phrases common to our world but unlikely to develop naturally on another world. “Speak now, or forever hold your peace” is used in the context of a judicial proceeding, as is “The burden of proof lies with the prosecution”, and Keir describes a large knife as “machette-like” despite the author having repeatedly given us evidence that Keir is unfamiliar with things from our world. While I think the plot is tight and well paced, it feels like there are three separate stories told in this book, haphazardly thrown together: Keir’s rescue, the island interlude, and Quin’s misadventure with the mysterious Emissary. Connections between them seem contrived, almost forced, and I felt that Quin jumps too easily from one adventure to the next.
Pippa Jay’s debut is not one to miss – full of action and humour and two kick-butt protagonists, it’s sure to entertain. I really enjoyed it, and will look forward to reading more.