I’ve known Patty for a little while via twitter, her wonderful blog, and through Tales for Canterbury, so when she asked whether anyone wanted a review copy of her novel, Watcher’s Web, I jumped at the opportunity.
She’s not your ordinary country girl, even though she might look like one. She casts webs of power, reading the feelings of living beings and telling them what to do. Nobody knows what causes it, least of all her. Her name is Jessica, but most people call her ‘freak’.
One fateful day, her ‘web’ connects with a stranger, and stray power causes the plane in which she’s travelling to crash in an alien world. An accident? The more she discovers about the world in which she has landed, the more she doubts it. She is a survivor from an ancient race that once travelled the stars. Her ancestors were powerful and dangerous, and it seems at least two people want her: the man who invades her mind, and the man who’s desperate to help her get back home. But Jessica grew up an Earth girl, and isn’t having any of this. She’ll pander to no one, thank you very much, even if her stubbornness enrages the tyrant race who hold the world in their grip.
The first thing that I noticed about this book, and really appreciated, was the strong Australian voice of the character. It’s been awhile since I have read anything that is set, even just initially, in a country other than America or an American copy. So it was refreshing, and enjoyable to see an Australian author making the most of their country of origin.
Jessica very quickly gets uprooted, and the reader gets to experience a whole new world through her eyes. She is thrown into the middle of things she struggles to understand and Jansen does a stellar job of getting the reader caught up in this.
I have to say that this is the first book I’ve read in awhile that has aliens who actually seem alien. Sci-fi in general is peppered with species and races which are all too human – and I can understand that, on some levels. Writers want to make sure that the readers can relate to the characters in their book – but aliens should be different to us. Jessica gets to explore this, to learn more about these alien creatures, and herself in the process. Jansen has done a fantastic job of creating a world that is alien, and yet still approachable for the reader.
The story line is evenly paced and while we try, along with Jessica, to grasp at all the strands, Jansen brings it all together with verve. Jessica manages to stay true to herself, while also letting the barriers slide so that she can interact with those around her. There is a lot of action, and excitement, and I loved watching the development of Jessica throughout, as she begins to open up to others and connect with the world around her, which also means she gets to grips with her strange talent and mysterious history.
If I had one gripe, it would be with the way the romantic subplots were tied up. Where Jessica felt like a strong character who always followed her own mind in the rest of the novel, she seemed less in charge when it came to love, and the resolution felt more like her accepting the hand that life had dealt her, rather than a choice about what she really wanted. That said, it was clear throughout the novel that Jessica was something of a novice when it came to relationships of any kind, so perhaps her actions are fitting.
All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. It was refreshing and vibrant. I love the cultures and characters that Jansen has created; it felt like there was a lot of depth to them, a richness which helped bring the story to life. I’d recommend this book to just about anyone, but in particular to writers who want a great example of how to create rich cultures/worlds, without drowning the reader in too much information. I’ll be checking out Patty’s next release, as I am sure that will be a good one too!