By: TA Bruno
Publisher: Tom Bruno Author, 2021
Genre: Science Fiction
WARNING: There will be spoilers for In the Orbit of Sirens, Book 1
Content Warning: Violence
Once again Mr. Bruno has written a brilliant novel that goes beyond science fiction with Book 2 of The Song of Kamaria, On the Winds of Quasars. While at its core, it is an incredible science fiction story, it also delves into the complexities of family interrelationships, ecosystem building, and our relationship with nature. Having read In the Orbit of Sirens, I had eagerly awaited this second book in the series, and Mr. Bruno does not disappoint. The story takes place 26 years after In the Orbit of Sirens. There are a few important points to note. The auk’nai are now living in harmony with the human settlers on Kamaria in Odysseus City. Denton Castus and Eliana Veston married and had 2 children. Their children, Cade and Nella, are grown, the former working as an EVA specialist, meaning he fixes anything mechanical, on space vessels that mine asteroids, and Nella is a botanist. The diversity and representation in this book are a joy to see. Denton’s brother Jason is gay and has been with his partner for 15 years. Nella is deaf, communicating through Sol Sign, a form of sign language. Mr. Bruno, in his opening note, consulted sign language experts to construct Sol sign. One should not overlook the importance of this detail. Sign language is how the deaf and hard of hearing communities communicate, and rather than just create any kind of signing, Mr. Bruno pays respect to the real communities.
On the Winds of Quasars focuses on the entire Castus family. Two important events happen that drive the story. The first major event is the killing of the auk’nai deity, the Daunoren, and many auk’nai blame the humans. Not long after, Cade and Nella are kidnapped from their home by an unknown flying entity. They manage to escape, and what ensues is a wild ride across the continent as Cade and Nella try to make their way home. They are pursued the entire time by what they only describe as the “monster” that took them. They find help along the way, and we, as the reader, are taken through Mr. Bruno’s incredibly imaginative creation of Kamaria. As with the first book, the environment plays a crucial role to the story. As Cade and Nella attempt to make it home, they traverse the various environments found on the continent. Along the way, they are helped by an auk’gnell named Hrun’Dah. Hrun’Dah was a wonderful character addition to the story. She is brave and decides to help Cade and Nella, as she knows the Song of Kamaria. While all humans have no song, she hears a strong song from Cade and Nella. Why do they have a song? No spoilers, so you will have to read it to see.
The action was well paced throughout, interspersed with character development. The attacks as the monster finds them are gripping and exciting. The land presents its own dangers as well, and it’s just as exciting as we watch as Cade and Nella try to make their way home. Of course, Denton and Eliana are looking for them. We see the toll it takes on them as they retreat into themselves. The relationships are real and we can relate to the emotions they experience. The fear that Cade and Nella experience is worsened because Nella is deaf and cannot hear if danger is coming. Denton and Eliana are distraught, but don’t turn to each other. They seem to drift apart emotionally. Having “known” them for the series, I felt for them. When I read a book and it elicits a strong emotional response from me, I know I am reading an excellent piece of literature.
From work in space, to the human-auk’nai settlement of Odysseus City with its tall buildings and flying platforms, to the forests, mountains and lakes of Kamaria, On the Wind of Quasars is excellent science fiction. Even more, it’s a story about family, relationships, and nature. It takes the reader on both an action-filled and emotional ride. I highly recommend both In the Orbit of Sirens and On the Winds of Quasars. This is a brilliant series; one of the best science fiction series I have read.
Kamaria was always a special creation for me. As I mentioned in my first review, the creation of an ecosystem is particularly difficult and because it is my specialty, I tend to look at it critically. If you create a city in science fiction, I think there is more in the way of “free reign,” so to speak. Odysseus City is wonderful. It has buildings, homes, poorer areas, and floating platforms for the auk’nai. It is a normal city with advanced technology as one would find in science fiction.
Creating ecosystems is entirely different. As an environmental scientist, with a particular interest in ecosystems and species interaction, Kamaria is nothing short of genius. Kamaria has a song. The auk’nai hear the Song of Kamaria in all the organisms that inhabit the planet. All that is, except for one. Humans. Humans have no song. As with every ecosystem, all the species on Kamaria are interconnected, even the auk’nai. That interconnectedness is heard by them as a song, and each is unique. I see parallels with our own relationship to nature. The further we remove ourselves from being part of a greater whole, the more we lose touch with being part of nature. We lose our song.
The song is essential to all things in Kamaria. For the auk’gnell, who live solitary lives, they call their niche their “song” and it is beautifully described here:
“I suppose humans would not understand. It is not even common among the auk’gnell,” Hrun’Dah said…she spoke with a tone of a whispering lover. “I am from the North. A place of ice and snow. The auk’nai and auk’gnell who live there can sense a heartbeat of a ruemowse from a plain away. We are people of deep listeners. The Song of Kamaria loves to play for us.” Hrun’Dah took a deep breath, and her eyes closed as she cooed.” T. A. Bruno, On the Winds of Quasars
The difficulty in creating a world this beautiful is that all species need evolve to where they live; they need to feel organic, like they belong there. When there is a forested area, there are species adapted to the forest. When they are in a watery environment, the organisms there are different and adapted to that system. It is very detailed, and even more, it makes sense. I felt as if I went to Kamaria and was able to walk through the forests and fields, the species would look like they should live there. There are species that are harmless and those that are dangerous, and that applies to the flora and the fauna. It’s not a forest of horror where everything can kill. That’s what I mean by organic and the difficulty in creating a believable ecosystem. This is the brilliance of the creation of Kamaria. It is one of my favorite worlds that have I ever read.
There are many important characters in this book. There is a wonderful diversity of characters as well, which is important to me in books that I read. Many are the same as the first book, but there are new additions.
Eliana Veston and Denton Castus: Their jobs are the same as in the first book; she is doctor and he is in the Scout Program. When Cade and Nella are kidnapped, they are solely focused on their return, as any parent would be. However, we still see Eliana’s vulnerability. We know she witnessed the brutal murder of her father, and it seems as if she has still not faced the reality of the trauma. The vulnerability surfaces as she appears to retreat into herself when the search for their children goes on, rather than opening up to Denton. I could feel thier pain as a parent, but I also felt sorry that they appeared to be distant from each other. Denton seems lost and also withdrawing into himself. They work together to find their children, but I felt the distance and pain between them. It is very clear that they love each other, but this has opened up old wounds.
“…She dug her fingernails into her palms. Denton gently reached over and took her hand in his, giving her a reassuring squeeze. She looked into Denton’s eyes, and at once, he recognized this version of his wife. He had seen her like this over 20 years ago when she was lost in a sea of questions about her father’s murder. This new fear was more profound, somehow more alive than the previous shadows that haunted Eliana. The answers dictated the fate of their children.” T.A. Bruno, On the Winds of Quasars
Cade Castus: The older child of Eliana and Denton works as an EVA specialist on space stations, often staying there for months. When he comes home for leave and is reunited with his family, we see the importance of the family connectedness. The small normal things, like having breakfast together, become special moments. He is very close to his sister, Nella. Cade is smart and does have ambitions to move upwards in his career. When he and Nella are kidnapped, he is able to improvise and help them survive. Cade is a quick thinker, and his protectiveness of Nella is quite touching. I think we will see more character growth from Cade in the next book in the series.
Nella Castus: The inclusion of a deaf character was truly refreshing. Nella is a brilliant botanist and a kind and gentle soul. However, when her family or friends are in danger, she will fiercely protect them. When they are kidnapped and escape, she does not panic. She works with her brother as they try and make their way home. Nella does know her limitations in the wild as far as hearing danger, and for that she relies on her brother. Her skills in botany prove to be a great asset for finding things to eat as she knows which plant species would be poisonous, and those that are safe. Nella was a wonderful character and, as with Cade, I know we will see more character growth for her.
Hrun’Dah: I always loved the idea of these sentient bird “people.” They are in tune with Kamaria and understand and protect all that lives there. Hrun’Dah is no different. She is however, an auk’gnell. Auk’nai always refer to themselves in the third person and live socially. Those like Hrun’Dah, that seek solitude, are auk’gnell and refer to themselves in the first person. She helps guide Cade and Nella, navigating through some dangerous terrain and keeping and eye out for the “monster” hunting them. Hrun’Dah is brave and a skilled hunter, which makes her perfect for the journey. As they spend more time together, a trust and bond develop between the three charcters.
Zephyr Gale: Zephyr is also a new character. She works with Cade and is his best friend. Zephyr is as tough as they come. She cares deeply for Cade and is, of course, naturally distressed when he and Nella are kidnapped. While Denton and Eliana conduct their own search, Zephyr tries a different approach. She is trying to piece together the puzzle much like a detective would do. I loved her addition to the cast of characters, and I think we will see more of her in the future.
On the Winds of Quasars was a sequel that did not disappoint. It was a perfect continuation of the story of the Castus family. I have had a chance to read more science fiction, and this series is certainly one of my very favorites. The story at its core is the science fiction part of technology and how the humans and auk’nai are making Odysseus City better for its inhabitants. A great story has more layers to it, and On the Winds of Quasars is multi-faceted. Going beyond science fiction is a story of family and relationships, how nature affects humans, how we react to it, and what we can learn from those who live in harmony with it. It is science fiction literature at its finest. Mr. Bruno’s characters and the world of Kamaria are a must read if you love science fiction. His creation of Kamaria continues to evolve and is nothing short of genius and well thought out. We learn more about Kamaria’s song, and it is simply beautiful. The creation of ecosystems is even more complex in this book, and once again we have beauty and brutality-just as all ecosystems are. The characters are very well-developed and we see the importance of diversity and inclusiveness in the story. I like diversity in characters as I feel it adds more to the genre. I am once again looking forward to the next installment of The Song of Kamaria. It is easily among the best science fiction I have read. I highly recommend this series.
Summary (from Storytellers on Tour)
The thrilling sequel to In the Orbit of Sirens
THE WORLD OF KAMARIA WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.
In the aftermath of the brutal slaying of a sacred auk’nai deity, Cade and Nella Castus are taken from their home and brought deep into the wilderness. They must make their way back to civilization, traversing dangerous landscapes as they are pursued relentlessly by their captor—a winged abomination.
As Denton and Eliana search for their missing children, they uncover something that will change all life on Kamaria forever.
Thank you to Storytellers on Tour for an eBook copy to review. My sincere thanks to Mr. Bruno for a signed copy of the book.
To learn more about On the Winds of Quasars, check out TA Bruno’s website: https://tabruno.com/
My review of In the Orbit of Sirens
Mr. Bruno’s amazing artwork for The Song of Kamaria
Purchase On the Winds of Quasars on Amazon
On the Winds of Quasars on Goodreads