Book ReviewMay 2, 2021

Review: Ten Low by Stark Holborn

Ten Low

Published June 1, 2021 by
Genre:
I received this book for free from the publisher.
This did not affect my opinion or the content of this review.

Summary

Ten Low is eking out a living at the universe’s edge. An ex-medic, ex-con, desperate to escape her memories of the war, she still hasn’t learnt that no good deed goes unpunished.

Attempting to atone for her sins, she pulls a teenage girl from a crashed lifecraft. But Gabriella Ortiz is no ordinary girl – she is a genetically-engineered super soldier and decorated General, part of the army that kept Ten prisoner. Worse, Ten realises the crash was an assassination attempt, and that someone wants Ortiz dead…

To get the General off-world, they must cross the moon’s lawless wastes, face military hit squads, savage bandits, organ sharks and good old-fashioned treachery. But as they race to safety, something else waits in the darkness. Something ancient and patient. Something that knows exactly who she is, and what she is really running from.

My thoughts

Compare a book to Mad Max: Fury Road and I’m immediately interested. I’m a sucker for desert settings and western style stories in general but Ten Low takes it even further by also being set on an alien planet with its very own touch. Does Ten Low deserve that comparison, you may ask!? Oh hell yes!

Ten Low is the first book I’ve read by Stark Holborn (which is a pseudonym shrouded in mystery btw) and it certainly won’t be the last. I immediately loved the writing style and knew I was going to like this one a lot within the fist few pages already.

I can’t say I read a great many books told in first-person (not by choice but I don’t come across by as many) and must say it works perfectly for this story. Low is somewhat of an unreliable narrator, there are things she sees/hears that might or might not really be there (you gotta read this for yourself to find out).  Either way, I loved her voice and being inside her head makes her inner struggles of coming to terms with her past that much more intense.

Directly related to that is the very unique concept of alien life on this planet. It’s definitely one of the most clever ones I’ve read so far and would LOVE to read more about.

The overall plot of Ten Low is one hell of a ride. Once it gets going (and that happens almost immediately) it’s non-stop action. This is exactly the kind of high-stakes, oh-my-god-they-are-all-gonna-die-aren’t-they, no-break-for-you-ladies thrilling plot I had hoped it would be with lots of amazing fighting scenes, just as this western-style setting demands. And it doesn’t help that it basically comes without chapters which made it very hard for me to take breaks and I almost read the whole thing in one sitting.  That the action-packed plot is mixed with the slow unraveling of Low’s past is just the cherry on top.

While Low is the only POV character, you still get a very good feel about the many other characters as well. This little group of morally gray characters is what I call “squad goals”. I loved them all A LOT, which made reading this not easy because who even is save in this book. NO ONE. I certainly wouldn’t mind reading a whole book just about the G’hals, a kickass bandit crew.

Ten Low is a damn good book that kept me glued to the pages but what makes it even better is its subtle queerness, its queernorm world. From the mention of two dads, over the multiple non-binary characters, to the f/nb and m/m couples, I really just assumed everyone in this book was queer by default.

Ten Low is exactly the kind of story I hope to get when someone mentions Mad Max: Fury Road. A desert type of setting but with its unique touch, super rad gunfights / fighting scenes, non-stop action and amazing, morally-gray (queer) characters. I highly recommend reading this one.

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