A steamy scene very early in the book (there’s no dawdling in Avalanche, and the bedroom door is open) leaves Lanna to reckon with the truth: she’s sold herself to the Emperor, just as Lucas, the Augmented voice of reason who is literally in her head, warned her she would. Lanna has a price, and as she begins to question what she thought she wanted, we see her greatest development as a character.
(Note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This book also contains mature content and allusions to non-consentual encounters.)
Lanna of the Clans is back–or at least she would be, if life at the palace didn’t have her so confused. This hard-hitting third installment of what used to be the Pler Trilogy brings readers a more introspective Lanna alongside true science-fantasy and an impeccable balance of action and character development. On top of that, it’s an excellent and binge-able read.
The main cause of the Southerner-turned-Imperial seer’s confusion is handsome Emperor Ashioto, who Lanna must marry after a period of seclusion. Nothing is black and white about their relationship. Ashioto can be tender and caring, yet dangles the fate of her old friend Mika, and the village she and Lanna came from, as bait whenever he wants something from her (and those things are never small). Still, Lanna is drawn to him and conflicted about her plans to bring down the Empire. Her background in the Machiavellian South doesn’t help that either. If Ashioto is cruel, it’s just a reminder that Southerners aren’t meant to bond anyway.
As promised by Icedancer (review forthcoming) it’s also her biggest play for agency, even as the forces against her true freedom prove stronger and more calculating than she’d guessed. She’s also in her own way: forced into the position of sacrificial lamb, Avalanche takes time to ask what Lanna is worth to herself.
This, combined with her increasingly heart-warming relationship with Lucas, makes Avalanche Velfman’s most character-driven book yet. Given that Lanna is in seclusion, that seems natural–but the constant action and complications are unexpected and wonderful surprises. There is no shortage of action or plot twists in this book, even as Lanna’s character is fleshed out into the fifth dimension. We learn more about the midlands, too, as Lanna’s concerns stretch ever further from the Flower Hall. Even Chowa, who is mostly absent in the book, gets a fresh look.
Avalanche also lands firmly in science-fantasy territory (at last!). Gone are the teasers of another civilization; readers learn a whole lot more about where Lucas came from and how their world functions (hint: it involves more than a little tech). Both technology and its breakdown are to be feared in the Pler Series, as the marvels of that civilization behind the curtain may prove to be horrors for Lanna. Absolutely nothing in her world is simple.
This is one of the many reasons why I finished the book wishing I had the next title in the series already. Once again, I’m left eagerly awaiting whatever Lanna (and the charming Lucas) does next.