First To Dance, by Sonya Writes
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
This particular book begins as a bit of a mystery, with a bright and curious young woman who is bored by her life and convinced gradually through some hidden books that there are other planets out there, like Earth, which is officially considered a lie by the authorities of her homeland, thanks to her belief in some letters from a mysterious woman preserved by her cautious father. It is once the young woman escapes from the authorities and finds a spaceport in a forgotten area of the planet and travels to another planet, diverted from her original intent to go to earth, that the plot thickens, as it appears that unbeknownst to her (or others) there is both a sort of control involved in the space travel and there are other travelers who watch the various inhabited planets. It takes a while for this matter to become important, but when it does the story gets significantly darker and deeper.
First To Dance, as the first in a planned series of novels, serves as a worldbuilding exercise that has some relevance for readers, especially in the way that it points to such matters as the value of truth, memory, love, and one’s principles, as well as the corruption of wealth and power and the way that space exploration could conceivably serve as a form of experimentation as well as resource acquisition in the future, if travel costs and times can ever be reduced to a manageable level. This novel appears aimed squarely at a teen or young adult audience, among those with an interest in matters of personality theory, politics, and science fiction, with a touch of Victorian romance to liven and complicate them. Those with an interest in education will be intrigued to see the author’s view of different forms of learning, from unschooling to highly regimented recitation, that find their way as part of the interests of the clever and intrepid young woman who serves as the narrator of most of the novel.
Although the focus of most of this particular novel is on the development of a few key characters (including some surprising ones that take on importance as the novel progresses) as well as the discovery of the narrator (who serves as a stand-in for the audience in her gaining understanding of earth and other planets in the future of the novel), there is also a great deal of attention paid to the mechanics of travel as well as observing and recording the behavior of the people of the various inhabited planets. Readers with an interest in personality theory will be rewarded by pondering the qualities of various people. By providing so many quirky sort of elements of worldbuilding, the novelist has provided a novel that rewards a thoughtful reader with diverse interests, and promises an intriguing sequel as well.