Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Stray (Touchstone #1) by Andrea K. Höst

When Cassandra Devlin left school on her final day of classes she thought she was headed home to prepare for a night of partying with her fellow graduates. But somewhere along the way she inadvertently traveled through a gateway away from Earth and onto another planet.

Alone, lost, and without resources other than what she had in her school backpack, she located a waterway and followed it downstream in hopes of finding civilization. Instead she came to a strange, deserted community constructed of blocky, white stone buildings.

Surviving there a month, she is discovered and rescued by a pair of young, black-clad soldiers (Setari) and taken to their home base, KOTIS, on the island-city of Konna, on the planet Tare. There she receives medical attention and is implanted with a device that helps her understand and learn the Taren’s language.

She is what they call a “STRAY,” and she’s not the first one that’s been found. There have been others.

Throughout the story, Cassandra expresses her desire to return home, but as she tries to figure out how to accomplish this, she is developing relationships with her rescuers and becoming embroiled and invested in their fight to save their world from destruction by the horrible creatures, the Ionoth, coming through the ENA. Her Setari friends believe that should she breach the ENA again to return to Earth she may draw the attention of the Ionoth and cause them to attack Earth just like Tare.

Told in first-person in the form of Cassandra’s diary, author Andrea K. Höst has developed an imaginative and compelling storyline in an interesting world. Familiar yet very different, the planets of Muina and Tare, and the concept of the ENA remain mysterious to the reader even at the completion of this first book in the Touchstone series. (The ENA is defined as “a dimension connected to the thoughts, memories, dreams, and imaginations of living beings,” however, it is a very real and scary place in the novel, filled with shadowy locations and dangerous creatures.

There are also a multitude of characters introduced (so many that there is a list of characters included at the end of the book.) While I enjoyed Stray, it took some effort to keep reading; the story develops slowly. Many of the characters are only superficially sketched out right now but I’m guessing some will become more substantial as the series progresses. I will definitely be going for the next book in the series, Lab Rat One, soon.

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