Series: A Tale of Rebellion #1
“There is no justice in convenience.”
Rethnali, a newly-minted captain in the long-standing and brutal elvish rebellion, wants to do more than keep her soldiers alive. She wants to turn the tide of the war for her people. When her old captain and mentor, Li, shows up at her camp with orders to go deep into enemy territory, she may have the opportunity to do just that.
But as Rethnali’s mission unfolds, she realizes that she is just a pawn in a larger game. While she tries to protect her soldiers, she forced to decide the course of her future and the future of the elvish rebellion itself. This is a story of lives shaped by hard choices and unforeseen consequences.
Extraction by B R Sanders is the first book in the A Tale of Rebellion series and set in the same world as Rebellion and Ariah. If you’ve read Rebellion, you’ll encounter a few familiar characters, though most of the narrative follows other characters and you don’t have to have read it in order to read Extraction.
B is a fellow Kraken Collective author, but I have done my best to account for any resulting bias. I received a copy for review, though I’m a little late with actually reviewing it compared to when I’d wanted to review it. My apologies.
Trigger warnings: Death, suicidal ideation, racism, war, dubious consent and addiction.
Anyway, so Extraction. This is my first experience with Sanders’s work and I have to admit that I struggled to follow the worldbuilding and narrative in Extraction. Even though it’s the start of a new series, to me it didn’t feel like it could be read on its own, especially the sections regarding Vathorem. Vathoram is a shaper, though he doesn’t know this. A shaper is, from what I could tell, effectively an empath. Part of the narrative deals with Vathorem learning this, but most of what he learns is kept off-screen to the point where, when he confronts Moshel about what is, in essence, rape the narrative quickly jumps into giving Vathorem knowledge that I, as a reader, did not gain with him. The chaining between Moshel and Vathorem isn’t explained well and the capture between Moshel and Sellior is likewise something that I still haven’t quite figured out. The way Sanders handles the scene reads like it relies heavily on the reader already having information, so I wouldn’t recommend starting to explore the Aerth novels with Extraction.
That said, while I frequently had questions that pulled me out of the story, I did enjoy the character dynamics when the book worked for me. The last quarter or so of the book was definitely my favourite. Crow’s paranoia is terrifying and entirely understandable. The dynamics between Sellior, Fenner and Rethnali throughout are fantastic. Sellior is attracted to Fenner, and sometimes they sleep together. But Fenner is in love with Rethnali. Rethnali is only sometimes interested in Fenner and ignores him otherwise and… It’s complicated and if you’re tired of love triangles because they always look the same and always resolve the same way: you’ll enjoy what Sanders does with these three elves.
But once Sanders throws in the cell’s former captain, Li, to disrupt the dynamics of the cell as a whole even more and what you’ve got is a tense, emotional rollercoaster. It’s great! 😀 Watching the members of the Clutch struggle with their loyalties and emotions was easily the highlight of the whole book. There are no easy answers here and if the narrative as a whole makes the mission feel less fraught than it wants readers to believe, if you read for character and emotions those will more than make up for it. Or, at least, it did for me. I enjoyed watching everyone struggle with their feelings as they tried to figure out what they really wanted and how to achieve it.
I loved the multilingualism that comes up as well. I really enjoyed the little notes and details about the languages, dialects and accents that kept cropping up. But then I love linguistic details, so of course I would.
I read Extraction in a single day and while it took me a while to get settled into it once I did I sped through the book and enjoyed myself. The review copy I received had a number of typoes and formatting issues that I hope will have been addressed in the final copy.
If you’re looking for a book featuring bisexual elves doing the best they can while on the losing side of a war, this is the book for you. The magic system is interesting and, while we don’t get enough detail on it for my tastes, I’m definitely interested in learning more about it. Extraction is a novel about loyalties as much as it is a story about friendship and relationships. It’s the start of a large-scale, epic plot about resistance and rebellion, but that narrative is really just a backdrop in this book. Its focus is firmly on the characters and their relationships. So if you like books that are a little quieter than epic battles but with a bit of bite to them at the same time, Extraction is a good suggestion.
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