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THE SOLSTICE WAR

A Very Smart Narrative

By E_Foster, author of Cages

May 9, 2015: On its most basic level, Solstice War is exactly what it says on the tin. It is a story about two warring factions, the socialist Dominances of Solstice and the capitalist Allied nations of Nocht, Lubon, and Hanwa. But while this undeniably is a big, ambitious narrative, focused on large abstract ideologies, it also has small, very human moments that keep the story grounded.

The overall structure of the narrative is very clever. The author drops us right into the action of the narrative in his prologue, then, once the story proper begins, he takes us back to the inception point of the war. While this non-linear structure will not be for everyone, I found it to be a smart use of non-chronological narrative time. Rather than immediately asking the reader to grapple with the complex rationale behind the offensive, the author allows the reader to become invested in the people fighting the war first which is a great way to get the reader hooked into the story.

While I am not entirely familiar with war stories, for me, the battle sequences were very well constructed as the action was easy to follow. In some chapters, maps were included to help the reader follow the maneuvers of the troops. This was a very useful addition since the descriptions of the battles often become very detailed, and it was helpful to know where the various armies were fighting. The author also alternates between the socialist and capitalist armies throughout the narrative, and although it is clear which side the author prefers, by providing both perspectives, he prevents the reader from dehumanizing either side and forces them to grapple with the true costs of this war.

The battle scenes are always narrated through the eyes of a soldier, and the author does a great job keeping the emotions of the characters true to life. None of these character is trying to be a hero; instead, each one is just reacting (sometimes well and sometimes not so well) to the insanity of war.

Two of the characters, for me, were particularly well-drawn. The first, Leander, is a transgender man. His development as a character is fascinating because the war becomes the medium through which he constructs his gender identity. As he fights, he is creating the type of man he wants to be. Leander’s story is very true to the experiences of those I’ve known personally who have transitioned. It was wonderful to see a transgender character written in an intelligent, sensitive, and realistic manner.

The second character, Madiha, is one of the leaders in the Solstice army. In fiction, women in leadership positions often lack any depth because their creators only see them one-dimensionally. Madiha, however, is a well-rounded, beautifully constructed character. She is clearly a capable leader, but the author also allows us to see her moments of weakness, failure, and fear. Unlike a lot of women in stories like this one, she feels like a real person.

While the story features a number of LGBTQ characters (Madhia is a lesbian), the author avoids making their gender identities or their sexual preferences their only defining characteristic. Who these characters love and how they identify themselves to the world is only a part of their story not the whole. The author allows these characters to be more than just their gender or sexuality.

Although the characters inner lives were skillfully written, unfortunately, the depictions of their interpersonal relationships were not as successful. The emotional connections between the characters typically seemed a little forced, and their interactions felt a little flat. In addition, occasionally, the dialogue was problematic. Sometimes it seemed a little stilted and fake, and sometimes there was a little bit too much exposition in the dialogue for my taste. However, I did only get through the first fifteen sections of the narrative, so these could be aspects that improve as the story goes on.

Overall, I would highly recommend this story to absolutely anyone because I’m a person who doesn’t read or even really like war stories, but I still liked this one. The writing style is quite beautiful, and the narrative is compelling and unique.

6 of 6 members found this review helpful.
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