An underground city, built centuries ago to ride out the devastating heat. A society under attack. And a young solar engineer whose skills may be the key to saving her city… if she doesn’t get herself killed first.
When Jossey was ten, the creatures of the aboveground took her brother and left her for dead, with horrible scars. Now, years later, she’s a successful solar engineer, working to keep her underground city’s power running, but she’s never really recovered. After she saves dozens of people during a second attack, she is offered a top-secret assignment as a field Engineer with Patrol, but fear prevents her from taking it…until Patrol finds bones near where her brother disappeared.
She signs on and finds herself catapulted into a world that is far more dangerous, and requires far more of her, than she ever imagined. The creatures and the burning heat aboveground are not the only threats facing the City, and what she learns during her assignment could cost her her life: one of the greatest threats to the City may in fact lie within. With thousands of lives at stake, can she act in time?
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The story takes place several centuries in the future after climate change has taken its toll, making the Earth too hot and desolate to live on the ground.
I really liked the characters in this book and found them lovable and well-defined. They all felt real, and some of them held dangerous secrets, which made them even more interesting. The protagonist is Jossey, the solar engineer who gets thrown into the heart of action by an unexpected attack on her city. S.Z. Attwell did a great job making Jossey feel real and human. She's brave and resourceful, which doesn't mean she's never afraid or doesn't doubt herself. Even though she's highly capable, there are a lot of situations when she's out of her depth and needs help. The fact that she struggled a lot made her courage and persistence even more admirable.
The world-building is extensive and compelling. There is a lot about the world that the reader doesn't know initially and discovers with the characters as the story progresses. The scenes are set really skillfully, adding to the overall tension and creating the right mood.
The plot is exciting, brimming with tension and full of thrilling action. It's an epic adventure that takes the characters on a journey full of dangers, unexpected discoveries and plot twists.
I loved Aestus! I couldn't put it down, as it was one of the most engaging and compelling books I've read. I was pulled right into the story from the very first moments. The author did a great job keeping the tension high and the action coming. Spiced up with some romance and unexpected reveals, it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. All of that combined with great writing, masterful pacing, fascinating world-building and interesting, lovable characters made for an incredibly enjoyable read.
It's definitely an exciting action-adventure in a magnificently executed dystopian setting, but it also explores some difficult subjects, such as colonialism, slavery and the deception of politics. The characters have to make some tough choices as they discover the truth. None of these subjects are new, but they are presented in a fresh way that doesn't feel forced or heavy-handed.
If I have to find something to criticize about the book, it is the fact that it ended unexpectedly on a major cliffhanger. It didn't feel complete, more like the story was sliced in half. I didn't mind it because I knew I would read the next book in the series anyway, and I bought it immediately after finishing this one. However, I can imagine that it can be disappointing for someone looking for a resolution.
I am most impressed with Aestus, especially taking into account it's S.Z. Attwell's fiction debut, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for her other books.
You might enjoy Aestus Book 1 if you like epic adventures, high tension and dystopian settings.
Check out my interview with the author S.Z. Attwell!
S.Z. Attwell is a professional science writer with an M.A. in media studies, but her real love has always been fiction writing. She just released the first book in her debut series, Aestus, and has a speculative-fiction/sci-fi novel in the works, along with a short story that she hopes to turn into a novella.
In her spare time, she does photography and archery, among other things.