ARC Review – Founder’s Mercy

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Founder’s Mercy by Owen Lach, a soon-to-be published queer sci-fi book that sets the stage for an interesting series to follow.

Some secrets are worth dying for.

The Bolvar Union provides everything a good citizen needs, only asking one thing in return: total devotion to the State. Teenage best friends Adan Testa and Bo Shen have other ideas. They plan an unlikely heist to earn their way over the wall, escaping Bolvar before serving their mandatory five years in the Bolvar Union Defense Force. But Adan doesn’t know he possesses a secret talent that no one has seen in the five centuries since the First Explorers colonized Neska. And when the Union discovers Adan’s hidden gift, they’ll do anything and everything they can to discover his secret. Even if it kills him.

Fans of Alex London’s Proxy or M.R. Carey’s Ramparts Trilogy won’t want to miss this engaging and inclusive sci-fi dystopian thriller.

***Thank you to NetGalley and Jetspace Studio for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I really enjoyed reading this book! The pacing kept me wanting to turn to the next page, and the world-building and relationships between the characters had me engaged throughout the story. The writing was straightforward and easy to read while still being descriptive enough to feel immersed within the world of the characters. Although, at times the sentence structure and certain phrases did become repetitive, and there were the occasional odd turns of phrase (chunky hair?). The good aspects of the story and writing, however, far outweighed any of the minor foibles.

The world-building in this book was fascinating. The society reminded me of descriptions of the Soviet Union, but it was set on a colony planet sometime in the future. The author did a great job of setting the scene, and the world felt well-conceived and realistic. It felt as though I was there alongside the main characters as they confronted the horrors and secrets of the Union, and I was enthralled by every minute of being immersed in this world. I especially liked how the information about the history of the world was carefully unveiled in service to the events of the story rather than just all being dumped at random. The parallel story of the first explorers, which was presented via written logs inserted between the chapters, complemented the story of the main characters and added to the mystery of the Union while giving important information about its origins.

The characterizations were well-done, and I felt like I was reading about actual teens. There was the usual teen drama, and the main character constantly assessed the hotness of his companions. These aspects, among others, made the characters feel like typical teens in the face of extraordinary circumstances. I thought the romances were adorable and well-paced while managing to avoid overtaking the entire narrative. My favorite thing about this book, though, was the endearing friendship between Adan and Bo. It was just so beautiful to read about two boys who weren’t afraid to express their emotions and form deep platonic bonds.

I also loved that the book was super queer. All the representation was great, and it was interesting to see equality on that front in a society that was deeply flawed in other ways. In a lot of queer stories, the protagonist is often fighting for equality (or simply to exist) in regards to their queerness. In this book, however, that wasn’t the case, and it was great to see queer teens just kick butt and take names without queerness itself being the motivation for their actions/conflict.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one. The only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read for me was the repetitive use of betrayal as a plot device. The first couple of times it packed a punch, but it got old and predictable as the story progressed. However, I still highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA, dystopian, queer, and/or sci-fi stories because it was definitely an enjoyable read. Therefore, I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

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