A Review of Refuge, by J.J. Blacklocke

A Review of Refuge, by J.J. Blacklocke

Special thanks to Netgalley & the book publisher, for allowing me to read and review this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Generally, I enjoyed reading this book. (More than it might seem…) But, there was also a lot I didn’t like about it. 

It did however, commit major crimes of one of my biggest pet peeves as a Reader. Using made-up words for things. (Coffee/Tea [who knows which] is now Besk.) The use of made up words – along with being nonsensical, it complicates people/place names, making it impossible to remember what each is supposed to be. This sucks the enjoyment out of reading for me, when I constantly have to stop and try to recall what X is supposed to be. 

I have developed my own way of handling this, by substituting them in my mind, as I read to something I do know/can remember how to pronounce; without constant frustration of trying to sound it out and wonder how it’s said, every single time. …It works better with names – as at least those are generally identifiable as Names of people/things/places.. (Tetralanna = Tetra. Gredin = Red. Sill – Jill. Trisectoriana = Trisector. Venna = Vienna. And so on…) But it still annoys me to have to do such things in order to make the reading enjoyable. And it’s not possible in all places – like If I have no idea what the real intent of the made up word is. 

Sure, I get why Authors do this – world building (insert eye rolls here) But I disagree with it on principle, when it makes the reading a struggle to understand, & enjoy. You want your readers to understand and enjoy your book, yes? Just call it what it is. A warm steaming mug of something that wakes you in the morning. It’s coffee. The end. Call it Vennan Coffee (or whatever), if you must. 

So yeah… while the book was moderate in it’s use of nonsense words – there was still plenty there – and plenty I never sorted out a definite translation of. Some were obscure enough in use, a reader might not really know what the author was trying to make it be. 

Along those lines, the author here sometimes went the opposite direction and would do such as instead of calling a pen, a Pen; it was a simplistic writing instrument. (This may not be an actual sample.) Also annoying. Detracts from the story. 

***Mild Spoilers ahead****

My biggest issue with this book is the author holding out until essentially the last few pages, to drop the bomb that the ‘people’ are actually ‘Navi’-like, and are scooping features from the well know Avatar movie. Connecting the fibrous filament ends of a thing that seems like it very well could be the Navi hair tail off their heads, and interlacing them with another’s’ in couple bonding. 100% Navi. I’m surprised the Editors let the author get away with this…. Though there is some confusion, as just shortly before that it seemed like the book implied that this ‘halo [or otherwise know in this gibberish as a ‘hlao’] was created by the child’s ‘parents, guides and head of house,’ when they are 3 days old. So it’s a handmade version of the Navi’s hair-tail-fiberoptic-thingie. As best as can be understood. For something so ‘major’ to the peoples of this origin, it had very little information, description, or even mention of though 99% of the book. This was a grievous error. We need to know a lot more. How? Why? What is it? And are these people Blue? [asking for a friend….] 

It felt like there were some mis-steps in plot. These people are bound to their special skill [gyft]. They are an expert in that thing. But when the main character has a vision, about their home planet/place of being – disappearing from existence (but with absolutely no details on how or why, or what happened…) almost all the others she tells this of – brush off her vision as a [night-thought] foolish, childish, nightmare. That seems a little out of line with what you would expect. Oh this is your expertise? No, but that’s not right. You just made it up….

There is no backstory on how the people are given these gifts, or any details about how they do the things they do. Like instant travel their physical forms to other locations. Planets away. This seems like some pretty important data. I wanted to know more, aside from ‘they sent there.’ um, ok? 

… So, a group or approximately 1000 of these people, instant-travel to another solar system, in which the traders go to trade, to be honoured, for their long history of 300… somethings… [weeks, months, years? Who knows.] Vision girl dreams the disappearance of their world. Tells other trusted peoples. They don’t believe her, brush her off. Majority of story revolves around her fretting over all this. Toss in a few tragic events where she accidentally hurts another being, and there’s some sort of very casual judgement handed down, and fines to be paid. Then the honouring event, and a party after. Which, is disrupted by the return of a Traveller, who went to verify if their home was indeed gone from time & space. He somehow dies from wounds, after returning, despite it specifically being made known that their people have extremely gifted healers who can instantaneously heal away any issue. Or so it was implied earlier in the book, when someone else needed fixing. [“Injuries are not permitted to linger.”] But not this guy. He died. Thank you for your service verifying the crazy girls’s very important story! 

I did enjoy the peoples from other cosmic systems. Though they were not a great deal of importance in the story (more of a setting feature), nor where they described in super amounts of detail – there was enough details about their appearances, sounds, smells, and behaviours it was easy to envision what these peoples might have been; along with their interactions between worldly races in the Tradepoint trader’s market area. I would have enjoyed them being much more active actors in this story. 

Another small point I enjoyed was the creative use of cursing. [At least I assumed they were meant as curses…] SCABS! Blisters. Bloody Cuts. (Hmm, interesting, all the examples I found were bodily injuries?) 

Obviously, I feel like there was plenty of dropped balls in the plot of this story, and so much more that should have been in it. It was interesting though, despite feeling like it could have been so much better developed. I would only recommend reading it, if you keep your expectations quite low. Or, plot details aren’t as important to you, as a general story enjoyment. The quality of writing was fine and no complaints about that, aside from the already mentioned detractors, like choice of language. 

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