Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks. ★★★
Centuries ago, wars ruined the earth, destroying cities and wrecking the environment. But humanity remains as people struggle to survive in the harsh world that remains. But an ancient and powerful war machine, Lotus Blue, has awaken in the desert, and what’s left of the world may be at risk.
Lotus Blue has a variety of POV characters, but the protagonist is clearly Star, who has far more sections than anyone else. Star and her sister Nene live and travel with a caravan of traders, heading up and down the Sand Road. But unfolding events have a cataclysmic effect upon the caravan, drawing Star into the quest to stop Lotus Blue.
Here’s the biggest problem with Lotus Blue: Star had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the book. She could have died in the very beginning and the ending would have been the same. I noticed about half way through that Star was a passive protagonist who lacked agency – she tends to react rather than be proactive. But I’d assumed that in the end she would make some plot relevant action. I assumed wrong.
When I said there were a lot of POV characters, I meant it. First off, there’s Star. Then there’s Kian, a boy trying to find Lotus Blue for his one glory. His cousin also gets sections. Same goes for a wealthy merchant’s daughter, an aging female super solider, a battle scared male super solider, Lotus Blue itself, a random girl in a watchtower, and a scrappy stowaway. Here’s the thing… all but two or three of them could have disappeared from the book and the end result regarding Lotus Blue wouldn’t be much different.
Having such a mass of characters negatively impacted characterization. I never really connected with any of them. At one point a side character died, and it was being treated like an emotional moment. Only I actively didn’t care because he had no characterization or personality.
One other disappointment was that I picked up Lotus Blue because I saw it on a list of SFF about sisters. It’s not really a book about sisters. Nene disappears halfway through and never returns.
On the bright side, I did enjoy the setting. The world Cat Sparks imagines is one of an ever growing desert, with mad mechas blazing through the sand and reckless humans hunting them for parts. There’s a certain Mad Max feel to it, helped by the post-apocalyptic Australian setting. The world really came alive, and I loved the details such as the sand ships, towers, and immortal super soldiers.
If there’s a there’s a sequel to Lotus Blue (and based on the ending, I think there will be), I am not going to read it. While I liked the world building, it was not enough to make up for the problems in structure and characterization.
I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.